WCS/TAF Film on indigenous land tenure

Finished my latest film, a short for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and The Asia Foundation (TAF). This was a nice little project. I got to work with a hill tribe community I have worked with on several occasions. We spent one day with 3 local people collecting various foods and medicines that they traditionally use. We stopped for lunch where they prepared the food, fish and various plants and cooked them in a bamboo pot. It made for great pictures, particularly as the forest here is very picturesque.  I really want to go back with my new HD camera, which has the added bonus of giving me real wide angle capabilities that I sorely miss from doing stills photography.

I got to include shots of unusual activities like Resin Tapping. Local people cut a slot in these trees about a meter off the ground and several times a month they visit to collect the tree resin. This process entails setting fire to the hole, which can be quite spectacular, with the flames roaring up the trunk. It doesn’t damage the trees by the way.  The resin is used for all kinds of things, particularly for waterproofing boats but it also makes an amazing ‘second skin’ for blisters as I found out for myself a few years back. It stings a little like an antiseptic cream and forms a protective skin over the blister and is as good as any man made equivalent I have come across. The locals also use them to make giant slow burning candles made from huge leaves. They can last for days and are invaluable around the campfire in the evening.

Land tenure for these communities is vital, as they need the forests resources to survive. These humble people are often ripped off by rich and powerful Khmers from the cities, looking to take advantage of their ignorance of laws. Many indigenous communities in Cambodia have lost their traditional lands to unscrupulous Khmers. More often that not the communities fall apart once the land is taken and they are forced to scrape a living working as labourers in the plantations that took over their lands. It’s very sad to see.

Their traditional use of the forests has very little effect on the ecosystem as they use rotational farming where they clear a small area and use it to grow crops for 2 or 3 years then the forest is left for up to 20 years before they return to the same plot again. Unlike the clear cutting of huge areas by outsiders this technique allows the forest to regenerate, it also ensures that wildlife and general biodiversity are not adversely affected.

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About Allan Michaud

English Wildlife Photographer/Environmental Filmmaker based in Cambodia
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