The artwork, and personal reflections about the environment, of 12 indigenous children from Ratanakkiri went on display last Tuesday at Meta House in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The children attended the opening and were accompanied by several elders.
50 year old Hoeur Sao, a member of the Kavet indigenous minority, was interviewed by the Phnom Penh Post during the visit and this grabbed my attention.
The Kavet people live on the outskirts what is now the Virachey National Park, in Ratanakkiri province. This is a typical case of removing indigenous people in order to do 'conservation' - a terrible policy that exacerbates the loss of biodiversity and ensures the loss of the traditional culture that manages that biodiversity. During the interview Hoeur Sao said that growing up "there was a lot of wildlife"..."when we walked to our crop fields, we used to see tigers, deer and crocodiles in front of us. But now, we rarely see them."
Hoeur Sao said people in her area never raised animals, when they hunted they distributed the meat in the village. Now they are all raising farm animals and practicing more sedentary agriculture.
"Before, we just dug holes with sticks to grow our crops," she says. "During the Khmer Rouge, they taught us how to plough our soil with buffalo. In the '80s, people began to own buffalos. Now, 90 per cent of our villagers own animals."