Helping impoverished communities find a way to make a living while protecting the environment in which they live were the main objectives for a project that sought to support families on Phnom Kulen through pig farming. It also happens to be the origin for what has become a prized, sweet and tender meat produced by free-roaming pigs in a naturally organic and environmentally sustainable way.
Phnom Kulen (“Mountain of the Lychees”), 50km northeast of Siem Reap, is a beautiful mountain range whose forests host abundant wildlife, rushing waterfalls, a river of lingas, and a vulnerable population of Cambodians who are among the poorest in the province. It is also where the Khmer Empire’s first king — Jayavarman II — was crowned in 802 CE. The extraordinary remains of his city were only finally mapped out by archaeologists in 2012 following an extensive air-to-ground laser (LiDAR) survey that revealed an astonishingly large and complex city buried underneath the forest. Indeed, the archaeologists had spent years walking across the very thing they were seeking.
Today, however, the forests are diminishing as farmers and loggers continue to cut away at them. But they are vital to the pigs who spend all day foraging for food among the trees. As a result they have now become vital to the farmers who depend upon the pigs and now work to protect this valuable resource. Their interest in maintaining their pigs and their livelihood is a vital part of the strategy for protecting what is left of these beautiful forests.