On the verdant slopes of the Preah Theat Mountain in Kampong Chhnang province, a determined community has raised a heartfelt plea. Desperate to restore over 15 hectares of their community forestland, ravaged by illegal encroachment, they are now appealing to nature enthusiasts and forest-lovers to donate saplings.

Sok Ith, the president of the Preah Theat Mountain community forest, shed light on their plight on July 5.

“Our once lush 15-hectare stretch has been violated unlawfully, and subsequently reclaimed by the Forestry Administration,” he said. “We now shoulder the crucial task of rehabilitating this violated green expanse. We aim to recreate it into a thriving haven for biodiversity, serving both our community and the multitude of species it houses.”

“We beseech all those who cherish nature to contribute saplings aplenty. Help us restore the green glory of these devastated community lands, and actively participate in preserving forests for the pure, life-giving air they bestow”, he added.

He explained that the community forest is sprawled across 1,682 hectares. The local people heavily depend on various non-timber forest products, and the region hosts diverse wildlife, including wild pigs and a myriad of birds.

To initiate reforestation on the Phnom Preah Theat community land, the plan is to rejuvenate one hectare, requiring over 1,000 saplings of indigenous trees.

Liv Sarom, a representative from the Community Forestry Network in Kampong Speu province, joined in this rallying cry for saplings.

“Dear people, with the urgency of the impending rainy season for replanting, our community forest urgently requires saplings for rehabilitation. Kindly extend your support,” Sarom implored.

Pear Kimheng, Kampong Chhnang Forestry Administration director, underscored the importance of the restoration process.

Kimheng highlighted: “Officials are actively invested in restoring the community forest.”

However, he admitted that due to ongoing land disputes, the provincial forestry administration is yet able to provide saplings.

“We have supplied saplings for free to the community for reforestation of uncontested areas. However, for the disputed areas, we plan to launch a comprehensive replanting programme once the legalities are clarified,” he said.

Kimhheng expressed his firm belief in the power of tree-planting as a vital act of safeguarding life on Earth.

“Reforesting these lands is an inherently noble act. The mere act of planting a tree contributes to preserving life on our planet,” he said.

He passionately urges residents to plant trees, not just in disputed or communal spaces, but also in their homes and localities.

The appeal has resonated strongly with the surrounding communities, who value the forest for its abundant resources and the intricate ecosystems it supports. The restoration project aims to not only reforest the land but also create a thriving habitat for wildlife.

Sok Ith reiterates: “We urge all nature enthusiasts to extend their support. Donate saplings, and help us reforest this sacred space of biodiversity. With your help, we can once again see the Preah Theat Mountain community forest teeming with life, and echoing the unbroken song of the wild”.

Thus, the community continues their noble fight to protect and restore their natural heritage, proving that even in the face of adversity, the spirit of environmental stewardship remains undaunted.

As they look towards a greener future, the Preah Theat Mountain community serves as a beacon of inspiration, reminding us of the critical role we all play in the preservation of our planet.