Liger Leadership Academy’s Chainsaw Tree Project

Have you ever heard of a tree that is made of chainsaws? Quite ironic, isn’t it? Well, such a thing actually exists in Cambodia!

Deforestation has been a major global environmental issue for several decades, negatively affecting not only nature, but us humans as well. According to newsmongabay.com, an estimated 6.7 million acres of forest was cleared in Cambodia, mostly using chainsaws, between 2001 and 2009. This gave the Liger Leadership Academy’s Country Director, Mr. Dominic Sharpe, a profound idea that aims to raise awareness about deforestation and inspire global environmental action. Liger is a project-based learning secondary school in Phnom Penh, Cambodia with a mission of raising the next generation of Cambodian change agents; through a mixture of core curriculum work, opportunity-based, and experiential learning, students at Liger graduate with the hard skills, leadership competencies and integrity to become ethical change agents.

When the chainsaw tree project was first ideated, it was just a dream, but about six years on, it was proposed to a Liger Grade 12 student, Meng Huoth, as his graduation year Impact Project. A Liger Impact Project is an individual year-long project that aims to create sustainable change in society, and every Liger student must complete one before graduation. During his Impact Project year, Meng Huoth worked with the Cambodian Ministry of Environment and went on a trip to Mondulkiri province to observe countless chainsaws that had been confiscated in an attempt to curb illegal logging in the region. One of Meng Huoth’s major goals was the creation of a tree sculpture using chainsaws. Initially, he planned to construct the chainsaw tree in Mondulkiri, however, due to COVID-19, it was planted on the Liger grounds in 2021 instead.

Since Meng Houth’s graduation, numerous Liger students from the current cohort have taken over the project and expanded it. They have authored two original novels, one in English and one in Cambodia’s native Khmer, both of which carry the same name and goal. In addition, an international campaign was hosted at the beginning of 2021; students of all ages from Cambodia and beyond participated by submitting poetry, photographs, and performance videos that address the issue of deforestation. To create even more impact, students designed a website highlighting all campaign products, as well as added new features, like a 30-day eco-friendly challenge that encourages simple habit changes that can greatly benefit the environment.

To support their on-going development of 21st century skills, seventeen Grade 11 students from Liger completed the Be the Change program during the 2021-2022 school year, as the second half of the chainsaw tree project was underway. Liger’s project-based approach was supported by the explicit skill development from the Be the Change program, and matched up perfectly with their mission of mindfulness in service.

Today, the Chainsaw Tree project is still moving along! In May, a group of students began working with professional directors, producers and animators from Hollywood, Cambodia and Australia to adapt their English language science fiction novel into a short animated film, retaining the original message regarding the global threats of deforestation.

With over two years of hard, constant work, the Chainsaw Tree Project has grown into a complex multimedia campaign, spreading awareness on social media, fabricating a real-life tree with the very gadgets made to destroy it, authoring two creative science fiction novels, and adapting one of them into a captivating animated film, creating national and international impact. In the future, among various goals, we hope to erect larger Chainsaw Trees at multiple locations in Cambodia, and possibly other parts of the world to continue raising awareness about deforestation, and ultimately, inspire others, especially youth, to take action.

Article Authors:

  • Dyna Chhem
  • Mealea Mang
  • Panharith Pov

Novel Titles and Authors:
The Chainsaw Tree (Khmer Version)

  1. Angely Rose
  2. Cheatra Chheang
  3. Saravotey Mom
  4. Sokheng Em

The Chainsaw Tree (English Version)

  1. Translated from Khmer by Yarina Hay
  2. Edited by:
    1. Caroline Bell
    2. Angely Rose
    3. Cheatra Chheang
    4. Saravotey Mom
    5. Sokheng Em
    6. Reaksmey Sor
    7. Sreyroth Chea
    8. Ena Im
    9. Kimhor Bun
    10. Mariya Chan
    11. Bopha Um

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