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Plant Trees to Restore Cambodian Forests

by Peace Bridges Organization
Plant Trees to Restore Cambodian Forests
Plant Trees to Restore Cambodian Forests
Plant Trees to Restore Cambodian Forests
Plant Trees to Restore Cambodian Forests
Plant Trees to Restore Cambodian Forests
Plant Trees to Restore Cambodian Forests
Plant Trees to Restore Cambodian Forests
Plant Trees to Restore Cambodian Forests
Plant Trees to Restore Cambodian Forests
Plant Trees to Restore Cambodian Forests
Plant Trees to Restore Cambodian Forests
Plant Trees to Restore Cambodian Forests
Plant Trees to Restore Cambodian Forests
Plant Trees to Restore Cambodian Forests
Prey Preah Rokar and Preay Lang forests
Prey Preah Rokar and Preay Lang forests

We would like to make a correction to our previous report on the tree blessing organized by the Prey Preah Roka Forest Network (PPRFCN) in January. 

In our report, we said that the Preah Rokar forest is a community forest in the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary. Actually, Preah Rokar forest is a national park that lies north of Prey Lang.

The Prey Preah Roka National Park was established by the Royal Government of Cambodia in a sub-decree on May 9th, 2016. It is home to many endangered species of animals, like the Giant Ibis, Asain elephants, fishing cat, and the silver leafed monkey.

To learn more, follow this link to read about the PPRFCN's efforts. 

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Sokhourn and Hourn
Sokhourn and Hourn

“There are two reason why I came," said Sokhoern as he held up two fingers. "One, I love trees. Two, I love the environment.”  With a checkered kroma secured around his neck and sweat glistening on his brow, 70-year-old Sokhoern, planted trees with more vigor than others half his age.

Hailing from Phnom Penh, Sokhoern had traveled with us (Peace Bridges Organization) to join the tree planting event in Kbal Khlaa community forest last year. He was captivated by Prey Lang and felt compelled to return. This year, when he heard we would return to plant in another part of the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary, he brought along his wife, Hourn. Hourn is 65 years old.

“Yeah, I’m the same,” said Hourn, who stood by his side. “When I see the trees, I love them. They’re so big! When I see that they’ve been cut down I’m so sad.”

This year, we planted trees in a large field near Chumam village, Sandan district, that had been cleared for a cassava plantation. Local authorities had declared the plantation to be illegal and allowed us to convert it back to forest. Over 230 volunteers, young and old, Christian and Buddhist, from cities and nearby communities, and around 40 forest rangers and officials scampered over fallen trees and waded through shoulder-high cassava plants carrying young saplings. These saplings were species of rosewood trees—trees that are highly trafficked because of their high price on the black market.

When asked how he dealt with the challenges of camping in the forest and the bumpy tractor ride, he replied, “Well, difficulties like this, I’ve done it before. Within my heart I feel joyful, motivated, and enthusiastic, so I forget to feel exhausted. I’m only happy!” A big grin spread across his face. “I’m just happy to be here.”

“I’m the same,” said Hourn. “We get jostled and thrown around [on the tractors], but I’m fine, I’m happy,” she said and chuckled.

Sokhoern added, “People tell me, ‘Uncle, you are old, it’ll be difficult to join. You shouldn’t go to Prey Lang.’ But I come anyway and I’m so happy. I know I’m old, but I have energy in my heart, so I am committed to planting trees so that young people after me can keep on living,” said Sokhoern.

Hourn said she had a message for people cutting the trees. “I wish you’d stop doing this, please, protect the trees instead of cutting them all down. We know that when we have the forest, we have rain and other benefits. We need to protect it for future generations.”

................................................................................

On the last day of the program, people gathered in a circle at the campsite. Most of them were dirty and tired, but still smiling in photos and exchanging contact info with new friends. They then took turns speaking into a megaphone to share their reflections on the tree planting/camping experience.

Maly from Phnom Pen spoke, “I am someone who loves trees so much I buy them and put them in my house as furniture. But now after joining this event, I’m going to stop buying wooden furniture and I’m going to tell my friends and neighbors not to buy it too. What I’ve seen here is that the Prey Lang Community Network really loves and cares for the forest. I’m in awe of you. So I wonder, why do the people in Phnom Penh not do more to support you? Anyway, I’m glad I came and I hope to bring my child and husband next year.”

A young forest ranger in black boots and camouflage uniform took the megaphone. “Thank you for letting me and the other officials, police, and rangers to collaborate with you to protect the forest. Today I’m proud and happy to see you all joining together to plant trees. I am a forest ranger, and I’m pleased to see people supporting and helping to protect the forest too." 

Finally, Sophay, a 2-time participant, spoke, “I want to send a message to everyone in Cambodia and around the world, We have to try harder to protect the Prey Lang forest here in Cambodia so we have it forever!!” We need to be united, we have to work together, we have to advocate together so that we succeed!”

Thank you so much to everyone who helped us to make this possible.

Reflection circle on the last day of the event.
Reflection circle on the last day of the event.
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Here are some of the rosewood trees we'll plant.
Here are some of the rosewood trees we'll plant.

Hooray, we've reached and exceeded our fundraising goal for this project! We are so grateful that people like you care about the environment and are doing something to end illegal deforestation in Cambodia.

Your money will be used to:

  • Purchase 2000+ rosewood saplings.
  • Cover the cost of Cambodian youth and local forest community members to join this event.
  • Compensate the local community members for transporting 100 people, 2000 trees, and supplies into the jungle. 
  • Train the Prey Lang Community Network members in active nonviolence, leadership, and conflict resolution so that they can work effectively to stop illegal logging.

Over two years, you've helped us raise more than $10,000 to plant trees, transform the lives of youth who are now passionate about the environment, and support the local forest communities.

Over the last 3 years, we've planted over 6000 trees and will plant more than 2000 this weekend. The local forest communities, specifically the Prey Lang Community Network, will continue to care for them and will patrol the wider Prey Lang forest to document incidents of logging.

We'll have plenty of photos and reports from the field (forest!) in a short time. Be sure to watch this video in the meantime.

With Gratitude,

The Peace Bridges Team

From "The Lorax" by Dr. Seuss
From "The Lorax" by Dr. Seuss

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Map of the forest where we will be planting trees.
Map of the forest where we will be planting trees.

Our annual tree planting event in the Prey Lang forest is quickly approaching. We are grateful for the outpouring of international support and enthusiasm for this project. Here is a quick update on what you can expect and why this project is critical to Cambodia.

From the 18th to 20th of September, around 60 Cambodian youth, environmental activists, and peacebuilders will load onto a bus and drive to Kampong Thom province. When we can go no further, we’ll ditch the buses for “cow machines,” or two-wheeled tractors that can traverse the rough, muddy forest paths.

We will be hosted by the local Prey Lang communities who frequently patrol these parts for illegal loggers. They have arranged for us to plant trees in a massive field within the Dien Chamroh Community Forest near Sandan village. This area was previously forested, but these trees were cut down and most likely laundered through the adjacent economic land concession.

All logging is illegal in the Prey Lang protected area, especially the cutting of luxury-grade timber. Nevertheless, it has been under attack and is rapidly decreasing in size despite its special protection status. It is quite common for trees in protected areas like Prey Lang to be cut down and then funneled through economic land concessions. Timber laundering is a common strategy used to clear large swathes of protected forest and make illegally cleared trees indistinguishable from legally cut timber. 

The illegal trade of timber worldwide is estimated to be worth a staggering US$50-150 billion, according to Interpol. In Cambodia’s forests, rosewood trees are especially targeted. This class of tropical hardwoods includes a variety of endangered species that are coveted by furniture makers and consumers in China and other countries. Often called the “ivory of the forest,” they are one of the most trafficked species in the world. Next month, we will be planting a variety of rosewood trees and other endemic species in Prey Lang. The local communities will care for them and protect them from illegal loggers.

Local communities are standing up to protect their forests and raise awareness about the rampant black market trade of Cambodian timber. The team at Peace Bridges Organization is proud to support these communities with active nonviolence and conflict resolution training, leadership development, and other essential “soft skills” that have enhanced their ability to defend their natural resources. 

Thank you to all of you have supported this worthy cause. Please stay tuned for our report after the event.

How log laundering works
How log laundering works
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Stay tuned to hear where we will plant more trees.
Stay tuned to hear where we will plant more trees.

Cambodia is still losing trees at a devastating rate. For that reason, Peace Bridges continues to offer its peacebuilding services to environmental groups as well as engage Cambodians in simple acts of change, like planting trees. 

In years past, we organized a big event to raise awareness of deforestation and plant trees in the Prey Lang forest. Each year in July, we invite our peacebuilders, young and old, to load up on tractors and haul hardwood saplings into Cambodia’s precious yet dwindling Prey Lang forest.

Unfortunately, with national eletions right around the corner, it is risky and difficult to organize large group events and there is more scrutiny of the Prey Lang activists' activities. Due to these circumstances, Peace Bridges will scale down and move the location of the event so as not to put any of our partners at risk. 

Nonetheless, we are excited to announce that we will organize several smaller tree planting events in the coming months. We have already had numerous requests from Christian, Buddhist, and Muslim communities to plant trees in their vicinities. The objectives for these events will be the same: gather together our peacebuilders, youth, faith groups, and environmental activists to learn from one another, plant trees, and make personal commitments to protect the environment.

We hope to reinstate our annual Prey Lang tree planting celebration in 2019. In the meantime, stay tuned for more information regarding our future tree planting events.

Prey Lang, the forest where we planted in 2017.
Prey Lang, the forest where we planted in 2017.

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Organization Information

Peace Bridges Organization

Location: Phnom Penh - Cambodia
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Audrey Thill
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Funded Project!

Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
   

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