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Project Code and Sector
Project Background and Justification
Project objectives and outcomes

Strengthening the response Against Exploitation of Forestry Resources through Organized Law Enforcement (SAFROLE)

1. Project Code and Sector

No. and Title: Strengthening the response Against Exploitation of Forestry Resources through Organized Law Enforcement (SAFROLE)
Duration: 3 Years
Location: Phnom Penh (Cambodia)
Link to UNODC Medium Term Strategy: 1.3 Criminal Justice System: more accessible, accountable and effective
Link to Regional Programme outcomes: 1.4 Illicit trafficking of natural resources and hazardous substances
Executing Agency: UNODC
Potential Partner Organizations: Australian Federal Police and Fauna and Flora International
Overall target funding: TBD

 

2. Project Background and Justification

The Cardamom Mountains, located in the Western part of Cambodia, are one of Asia's largest remaining blocks of forest, supporting at least 62 globally threatened animal and 17 globally threatened tree species, as well as providing home and livelihood for around 30,000 people, many of whom are from indigenous ethnic minorities.

Due to its density, it is very difficult to control the activities, whether licit or illegal, that take place in the forest. Criminal groups are actively engaged in illegal activities, such as illegal logging and timber transportation, poaching of wildlife, land clearing and land grabbing as well as non timber forest products (NTFP) extraction (Yellow vine and Mreas Prov Phnom). These activities result in significant biodiversity loss in the area.

Several factors make it very difficult to control forest crime and smuggling in Cambodia. First of all, there is a lack of community awareness and education on forest crimes among local populations. Second, the number of available rangers to patrol the area and to detect forest crimes is insufficient. Third, there are insufficient funds to provide adequate equipment to rangers. Fourth, there is a lack of technical support and oversight to supervise the operations across the Cardamom Mountains. Moreover, forest crime is facilitated by weak border control and law punishment in case of prosecution.

The specific case of safrole
Safrole Rich Oil (SRO) is a substance that, aside from its legitimate commercial use in the fragrance and insecticide industry, is utilized for the illicit manufacture of ecstasy. In fact, safrole is listed as a table one substance in the UN convention against illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances of 1988, to which Cambodia is a party.

Despite various efforts, illegal production and trade of SRO has been growing over time due to weak regulatory and control systems. The essential oil is obtained from tree trunks, roots, bark, branches, and leaves, although each species and tree part yields different percentages of oil purity. In Cambodia, SRO is extracted from the tree locally known as Mreas Prov Phnom, which grows in the Cardamom Mountains.

Production generally takes place within the forests, and large amounts of fuel wood are needed, which together with the felling of the Mreas Prov Phnom tree results in significant deforestation. According to UNODC, harvesting of the Mreas Prov Phnom in the Cardamom Mountains started in 2000 when international demand began to grow. In 2004, the government of Cambodia classified Mreas Prov Phnom trees as a rare species under the Forestry Law, making all harvesting illegal. In 2007, the government issued a regulation to prohibit the production, import, or export of SRO to prevent its use in the making of ecstasy.

 

3. Project objectives and outcomes

Project Objective: Trafficking of protected forestry resources from West Cambodia identified and effectively acted on

Outcome 1: Effective forestry regulatory framework reviewed and implemented
Outcome 2: Informed and capable specialized law enforcement officials on forestry-related crimes
Outcome 3: Mechanisms established to promote cooperation between law enforcement and the judiciary on forestry-related crimes
Outcome 4: Local communities empowered
Outcome 5: Enhanced national capacities to safely dispose SROs

UNODC and partners are currently exploring funding opportunities to start the project activities