Lnguem village, nestled in the secluded Trapaing Chor commune of Kampong Speu province’s Oral district, offers a breathtaking sight. From a distance, the village showcases a striking red landscape surrounded by enchanting forests. As night falls, the village nestled in the foothils of the Oral Mountains transforms into an illuminated gem.
Within this remote village, a remarkable group of young individuals, known as the “Baitong Warriors,” is spearheading the village’s transformation into an agro-tourism destination within the Oral Mountains region. Their goal is to inspire people to plant trees instead of cutting them down.
“In exchange for planting a flowering tree known as royal poinciana, the group offers a solar light bulb,” said Tan Kimsour, leader of the Baitong Warriors.
The Baitong Warriors, currently comprising around ten members, have dedicated the past five years to preserving the natural resources of the Oral Mountains. Their focus lies in preventing deforestation and actively encouraging local communities to contribute to reforestation efforts.
Educating individuals who venture into the forests to cut down trees is a central aspect of their activities. Moreover, the group is engaged in tourism-related ventures, aiming to inspire people to plant ornamental trees noted for their flamboyant orange-red flowers for the beautification of the area and to attract more tourists.
Kimsour shared their youth group has successfully transformed the once-feared Oral area, previously plagued by concerns of malaria, into a thriving tourist attraction. They have also facilitated climbing activities on Oral Mountain, Cambodia’s highest peak. As a result, the Oral area is now an appealing destination for Cambodians.
Enhancing the area’s beauty and attractiveness is a key objective for the Baitong Warriors. By donating over 100 ornamental royal poinciana trees for the locals to plant along the roadsides, they have contributed to the charm of Lnguem village.
Additionally, the group has installed 80 poles with solar lights for night-time illumination. They are further motivating villagers to convert their land into vegetable and flower gardens, thus creating an agro-tourism village. The future plan includes purchasing bicycles for villagers to rent to tourists and establishing an eco-friendly model house decorated with flower gardens and a cleanliness committee. These initiatives aim to attract tourists, generate income for locals, and maintain the village’s cleanliness.
However, the Baitong Warriors face challenges in educating elderly villagers to shift their focus from tree-cutting to cultivating crops within the village. Should they change their practices, it will transform Lnguem village into an agro-tourism destination, attracting visitors and generating revenue.
According to Kimsour, the group’s efforts have been supported by both local and foreign donors who provided the solar lamps.
Tep Nem, the chief of Trapaing Chor commune, highlighted the additional attractions near Lnguem village, such as a community forest spanning approximately 500 hectares.
“This forest offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy the shade it provides. Additionally, a waterfall from Oral Mountain, located around 8km from the village, adds to the allure during both rainy and dry seasons,” he said.
Tep Nem expressed his delight at the prospect of establishing an agro-tourism village, as it would provide families with additional income to support their households.
“If a youth group can create a tourist area that drives progress in the commune, I am genuinely excited and satisfied. It will significantly contribute to the income of the people in my village,” he said.