She has been working for many years with fishers and remote communities that greatly depend on fishery and forestry products for food and income. Poverty, social, political, and economic changes have caused natural resources to decline day by day because of high demand, short supply, and little sustainable planning for management. This has taught her to adapt and look for different ways to protect, preserve, and conserve natural resources.

In her job, she works closely with people from all levels of government and community to discuss sustainable rehabilitation of wetlands and conservation and management of wetland ecosystem services. Improving the livelihoods of local communities is often problematic for the conservation of biodiversity. She works to identify, prioritize, and address both threats and conservation and management approaches in wetland Ramsar sites, and secure food security and livelihood activities.

“Conservation means nothing if nobody can do it. People cannot join in conservation activities when they are hungry and have no food to eat”, she shares. That’s why she makes it her mission to discuss with all concerned stakeholders what types of conservation approaches can be practiced in each location. In the case of the Stung Treng wetland area, most villagers go fishing every day for food and income. Therefore, communities need to be given alternative sources of income, especially improved opportunities for farming and land ownership security.

Chea Seila is a 2018-2019 Mekong Conservation Hero selected by the Wonders of the Mekong project.

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