Oddar Meanchey, Cambodia


Photographer: Luke Duggleby

Year of Submission: 2016 (Educators Edition) 

Buddhist monk Bun Saluth runs Cambodia’s largest community-managed forest, the Rukhavon Monks Community Forest in the country’s northwestern province of Oddar Meanchey. Born into a poor rural farming family, Bun spent his early years training to be a monk and then living in Thailand. There, he spent five years studying the environmental conservation tactics used by Thai monks. He returned to Cambodia determined to protect his country’s forests. At first, people were suspicious of his efforts. But Bun persisted, explaining over and over again the benefits of adopting sustainable ways of managing their woodlands. In 2002, he managed to secure protection for an area of 18,260 hectares, and his community forest was born. Since then, his district has seen little illegal logging or land encroachment by farmers. “Even though more people live in the area, no one breaks the rules any more,” says Bun.