Early December 2018, the SNV Cambodia team welcomed CEO Meike van Ginneken to the country – an intense three day tour of projects took the CEO from Cambodia’s renowned northern Siem Reap province down to the capital of Phnom Penh, and a chance see the team’s work across the WASH, Agriculture and Energy sectors in the country.
Prey Khmeng village, outside Siem Reap town, was the first stop in the tour. Meike met with the village chief, commune council and families who have built latrines with support from the NOURISH programme. The programme aims to address the chronic malnutrition and stunting in the country by improving the nutrition and WASH practices and services of under-served rural communities. The NOURISH programme is led by Save the Children. SNV implements the WASH activities in the project. As a result of project's activities, Prey Khmeng village was declared Open Defecation Free (ODF) on 10 May 2017, and in November 2018 this success was scaled up to the whole of Khnat commune (12 villages) being declared ODF. Meike and the SNV team heard directly from stakeholders that the hardest parts of achieving the ‘last mile’ is helping people living in poverty gain access to sanitation. The partial subsidy provided by NOURISH assists these poor households achieve this goal. The private sector plays a critical role in producing, selling and installing low-cost latrines, and Meike was able to see first-hand how NOURISH is fostering private sector development and latrine business operations in Siem Reap. The visited company not only produces latrines, but is also a Business Service Center, connecting SMEs in the local area to share technical and business management skills.
Next, the tour headed east to Preah Vihear, one of the four provinces home to the Cambodia Horticulture Advancing Income and Nutrition project (CHAIN). Now in its second phase, CHAIN provides inclusive extension services to horticulture smallholder farmers to increase incomes and food security. In conjunction with attending the CHAIN Annual Partners’ Meeting with donor Swiss Agency of Development Cooperation (SDC) and senior officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Meike spoke with high-investment farmers that utilise modern greenhouse technology. Another partner, East West Seed (EWS), which provides intensive extension services to lead-farmers, hosted Meike at their demo-farms in Morseth village. Meike was particularly impressed with the number of women farmers who through their involvement with CHAIN have been able to thrive, increase their independence, income and become strong contributors to the local community and economy.
The day visit continued with a stop at a large scale warehouse of Amru Rice, a company supported financially and technically by SNV’s Innovations Against Poverty (IAP) fund; IAP is a challenge fund capitalised by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and mandated to identify and support innovative and inclusive business models that deliver both commercial benefits for the private sector in agriculture, energy, WASH and ICT as well as developmental benefits for low income populations in Cambodia, Ethiopia, Uganda and Zambia. Amru Rice has used IAP’s support to initiate an innovative public-private-producer-partnership, which involves small holder farmers as true shareholders of the business. In this partnership, farmers can use the warehouse facility and services for drying, packaging and storage of their rice, and any other crop they produce, while being granted with favourable selling conditions. Farmers can also use their crop as certified collateral to access low interest loans.
The third day of field visits, took Meike to SNV’s energy sector projects in the country. A traffic-beating early morning start, led to the outskirts of Phnom Penh and a factory stop at the leading producer of water tanks in the country, H2O. H2O is also home to the production of ATEC biodigesters, a SNV partner in the Cambodia Biogas Enterprise Development Programme. The programme supports the fledgling for biodigesters in the country. ATEC’s new, light-weight prefabricated design offers households a time- and energy-saving alternative to wood-burning stoves by converting animal, green and kitchen waste into clean biogas and producing organic fertiliser. A walk through the factory floor showed how workmen fire blowtorches at the surface of imposing cylindrical metal structures, to melt the powder inside that forms to the mould to become the plastic surface of the biodigester.
The next stop took Meike and the team to a quiet neighbourhood in Takeo province, and a first-hand look at homes fitted with African Clean Energy (ACE) biomass cookstoves, a recent technology that reduces the health and environmental hazards of wood- and charcoal-burning stoves. Already an international manufacturer of advanced biomass cookstoves, ACE entered the small Cambodian market for cookestoves through an SNV implemented market auction scheme that provides financial incentives for private-sector companies to offer their services in previously untapped areas. The auction allows market forces to dictate the terms of the incentives.
In addition to the above mentioned cooperation with the energy sector of SNV, ACE is also one of IAP’s investees. Under IAP, ACE is supported to develop and introduce a second generation cook stove that consumers can pay for through a flexible Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) system. The ACE PAYG methodology is based an communication system between the stove and a smartphone app, which allows users to make payments using mobile money transfer.
The final stop consisted of a short boat ride to the island Prey Pdao, outside Takeo town. A small fishing community known for its lobsters, power arrived only recently with the help of Okra Solar, which is also one of the investees of SNV’s IAP fund. In Okra’s solar system, power is shared across a network of microgrids, allowing users to plug into the grid, reducing energy waste and increasing power availability. A shop owner and the island’s first customer explained that not only does he pay almost half of what he used to without the system – where he had to travel once a week to charge a car battery – but now, with a lighted house, he can remain open hours later. Similar stories rang through the island’s homes.
In reflecting upon the visits to project sites and the meetings with key partners, Meike recognised the even spread of programmes across the three sectors in which SNV works. “The SNV Cambodia programme is a nice programme,” she said. “It has a good balance between the sectors, and we cover all SNV approaches in the different projects.”