In the northeastern province of Mondulkiri, a visionary project has emerged to combat the environmental challenge of illegal logging – a remarkable 10m chainsaw tree dedicated to the cause of environmental conservation.

Led by Mang Rathanakmealea, a passionate student from Liger Leadership Academy (LLA) and project leader of Action Hope, the initiative aims to create awareness about deforestation and celebrate the positive impacts achieved by the Liger class of 2023.

“With the support from the government, the idea was to build a chainsaw tree up in Mondulkiri from confiscated illegal chainsaws,” said Rathanakmealea.

However, the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic presented unforeseen challenges, limiting the project’s scope to the construction of a 3m-tall chainsaw tree on the school’s campus in 2020.

Undeterred by the setbacks, Rathanakmealea made a determined decision to continue the project and set a new goal: to erect a 10m-tall chainsaw tree adorned with 300 confiscated chainsaws in Mondulkiri.

The ambitious undertaking, which materialised in August 2022, also served as the backdrop for an event aptly named “Action Hope”.

This gathering aimed to celebrate the diverse range of projects and their transformative impacts on the students, their families, communities, the nation and potentially the world at large.

San Vathana, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, aptly compared the “Action Hope” project to planting seeds of change for education and the environment in Cambodia.

He likened it to the dry season when fields are burned after the harvest, but with the arrival of the first raindrops, new shoots sprout forth the very next day.

“The analogy highlights the importance of starting with a desire and taking small steps with hope. By initiating action, even in the face of obstacles, hopelessness or failure, one must have the courage to stand up again and persevere,” said Vathana.

“It is through this process of rising after a fall that intentions are ultimately fulfilled,” Vathana remarked at the end of Liger’s class of 2023 high school journey.

Rathanakmealea acknowledges the invaluable support of the ministries of education and environment, emphasising their crucial role in making this initiative possible. With their collaboration and unwavering belief in the project’s potential, the government officials have been instrumental in its realisation.

To truly appreciate the significance of this feat, it is important to delve into the journey that led to this momentous occasion.

The project’s inception can be traced back approximately four years ago when Rathanakmealea’s remarkable mentors laid the groundwork for this awe-inspiring challenge.

“This project was initiated by my incredible mentor, Dominic Sharpe, and my alumni Menghouth Lim, about four years ago”, she says.

This monumental structure, reaching an impressive height of 10m, has been erected within the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary in Mondulkiri. Serving as a poignant symbol, the chainsaw tree serves as a powerful reminder for all to address the alarming rates of global deforestation and take immediate and decisive action.

Rathanakmealea also expresses her gratitude to the dedicated team of engineers who brought the chainsaw tree to life, just in time for the event.

The chainsaw tree serves as a striking visual representation of the devastating impact of illegal logging, while also symbolising hope and resilience in the face of environmental adversity.

“It stands tall as a testament to the power of collective action and serves as a reminder of the urgent need to preserve Cambodia’s rich natural heritage,” said Rathanakmealea.

Action Hope not only highlights the plight of deforestation but also showcases the proactive efforts of the Liger class of 2023, demonstrating their commitment to effecting positive change.

“I have high hopes that the programme presented today will serve as an inspiration to all the guests, encouraging them to take action that can bring about change, even if the results may not be immediately visible, as these changes have the potential to ripple across the world like a wave,” added Rathanakmealea.

By promoting sustainable practices and environmental awareness, these young advocates are nurturing a brighter future for themselves, their communities and the world.

In a world grappling with environmental challenges, the chainsaw tree serves as a beacon of hope, reminding people every action, no matter how small, can contribute to a greener, more sustainable future.