The majority of Ratanakiri’s population is composed of indigenous ethnic groups who live in the highlands and practice a traditional way of life. Houses are built in traditional styles with local materials from the forest, and people typically practice Sweden agriculture. Villages are mostly homogenous, composed of one ethnic group per village. CIDSE works in villages with three of Ratanakiri’s main ethnic groups: Tampuan, Kreung, and Jorai. In addition, CIDSE works with Khmer settlers in four villages.
CIDSE’s first intervention in the province was in late 1990 when a team conducted a survey. In 1991 project activities were identified and started, in co-operation with provincial counterparts, including teacher training, village school construction, cow banks, and provision of equipment and materials to local provincial departments. In late 1993 the programme was expanded to include other activities such as non-formal education and a pilot animal vaccination project. Co-operation with the Department of Agriculture also started during this period.
In 1994, the integrated community development (ICD) programme was initiated. Because of the unique situations and problems faced by indigenous peoples, awareness rising at the national level and international level was also needed. CIDSE helped to organize seminars in 1995 and 1996 on ethnic communities and sustainable development in Northeast Cambodia.
From 2001, the Natural Resources decline notably, effort to support community to set up Community Forestry, Participatory Land Use Planning and Communal Land Titling in one pilot village.
The ICD programme has made significant progress, particularly in building a cohesive relationship with indigenous peoples who have been isolated from outside development interventions. Although sometimes described as ignorant of development innovations, ethnic groups have proven to be very willing and co-operative in the development process, if outside assistance is appropriate.
The fourth phase of Ratanakiri programme which aims to achieve the moving from a focus on village development committees (VDCs) to empowering a broader range of community-based interest groups, strengthen the capacity of indigenous communities to manage changes the pressure to land resources to private and commercial interest, emphasizing the self-management of activities, experimenting with sustainable upland farming practices, and land use planning and management, endorsing the pilot communal land titling activity in La In village . This phase also involve to support Trapeang Chres communities to become an independent community based organization, extend natural resource management in another commune and developing a collaborative project in development planning and programme with Commune Councils and grassroots civil society associations.
One of the obstacles faced by indigenous communities is the lack of participation of women in development projects. On-farm and household work overburdens them, and they are not encouraged to assume leadership responsibilities. Few women manage to even participate in development activities. Other obstacles are the lack of literacy and the remoteness of villages.