Jacqueline Lee is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving who is visiting our partners’ projects throughout Southeast Asia. Her “Postcard” from the visit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia:
Traveling by land, exploring the outskirts of Phnom Penh, 7 hours later I arrive in Kratie Province. Last weekend, I explored a northern province of Cambodia and visited Cambodian Rural Development Team’s GlobalGiving Project to Provide renewable energy to 15 families in a rural village on Koh Pdao Island separated not only by income but also by rivers from society and the main markets.
My day began meeting Mr. Bin Dim, the project manager, in Sambor province and off we were to board a ferry to Koh Pdao Island. The villages that we were off to visit are on an island and the main source of income included the selling of animals and agriculture. When we arrived, the area was hot and dry. Cows and water buffalo roamed free and the pace of life was definitely a lot slower than just across the river. We arrived at the first beneficiary family’s home. It consisted of a widow and her 6 family members.
One of the daughters welcomed us into their home, immediately recognizing and so happy to see Bin. Bin showed me the outside biodigester that they installed on behalf of the funding raised via GlobalGiving. This was one of 15 families that received them. Then the daughter and Bin proceeded to show me how it worked and she explained how she used it. I then asked her what she used before this gas resource – and she said batteries. Before, the family had to take the batteries into town across the river to pay to recharge them constantly. Also the family used wood to cook so had to go chop trees in the forest, using valuable time they could be spending on farming and helping out in the community. Cooking with wood also created a lot of smoke making the place dirty, she said. I also immediately thought that it probably was not good for their health either. Finally I asked her how the gas has benefited her family, and she replied that now when she needs to boil water or cook dinner all she needs to do is turn on the gas light the pilot and put the water or food on. It is so easy and now they have time to focus on work [income generating activities].
We went on to visit many other families all with the same explanations of how much the gas system has made things easier. I asked where they get the manure though if they don’t raise cattle or pigs, and they responded that they are able to collect extra from neighbors. These communities I found out are extremely communal. They even decide what each family will grow or make based on the needs of the village during community meetings. This is how CRDT works within the communities – speaking with the village leaders and villagers identifying needs and obstacles to their ability to focus on activities that will support income and raise the standard of living.
One other need CRDT recognized was for sanitation –due to no running water and electricity, organizations along with CRDT such as Oxfam have stepped in to provide fishing ponds, toilets, hygiene and health awareness campaigns and trainings, animal husbandry trainings, incinerators to get rid of “rubbish”, environmental education programs, and now looking into irrigation. Also, CRDT has started an ecotourism project that brings tourists to spend a few days within the village working and living alongside families in homestays. This is to promote income for the villages as well as cultural learning for both sides.
CRDT has 5 programs in order to reach its goal: to reduce poverty. (1) Income Generation, (2) Food Security, (3) Water Sanitation, (4) Renewable Energy, (5) Environmental Education
About the Biodigesters:
Who gets these biodigesters? A lottery system was put into place to determine who in the villages received the first batch of biodigesters. One widow exclaimed after being chosen that she was "very lucky.”
How do they work? Biodigesters take manure and turn it into natural gas that can be used for cooking and electricity.
Why is this important? Families can spend less time destroying the local forest, and injuring their health inhaling smoke while cooking. Children can study at night due to electric lights from the gas system; the source of energy comes right from their own animals that they raise and use for food, income, and transportation. The day and productivity no longer ends when the sun goes down and they have run out of batteries or candles. Time spent waiting for food to cook over wood fires is now spent doing other productive activities.
At the end, Bin Dim and I sat down to have a home cooked lunch of fried fish, banana chips, rice, and noodles with egg and vegetables. An older woman and husband in one of the homestay locations hosted us. They both had many questions for me such as where I come from, what life is like there, if people in US move out at 18 and are independent generally in adulthood… then who decides what your career is and decision making when get married? You decide for yourself I replied. And they were pleasantly surprised. Many other questions went on including how old are was I, and if I knew anyone in Georgia. They did not know Texas - but Georgia they knew because they had heard of Cambodian families moving there. Finally, they wanted to know about the 9/11 disaster, terrorism, why USA was attacked, and then finally wanted to show me all of the gifts they received from their many international visitors – gifts from Australia and even... Idaho!
Before I left the husband stopped me to say – thank you. Thank you for supporting CRDT so that they can help the villages.
If you are interested in a video of my experience with CRDT Click here
For more details you can read further about my visit in Kratie and with CRDTours at JacquelineInTheField
CRDT has been working with the communities in Kampong Cham Commune for five years now in support of conservation and sustainable livelihoods. Projects focusing on food security, income generation, the provision of clean water and sanitation methods, environmental education and waste management have been helping people to take control of their lives and their environment.
A form of renewable energy, biodigestors give family households living in rural areas a chance to give back to their environment, helping them to reduce their dependency on forest timber and mitigate against climate change.
By the end of 2010 you, and others like you who supported this project through GlobalGiving had funded the construction of 15 biodigestors for 15 households on Koh Pdao in the Kampong Cham commune. These houses now have light, gas stoves for cooking food and boiling water, and a sustainable form of energy at their disposal.
The members of these communities and their families would like to thank you. The total number of people your donations have touched is now 89. Everyone who received a biodigestor put their own time and energy into it, either collecting sand and gravel to aid construction, or jumping into the pit and getting stuck in themselves!
But it's not right to just build a biodigestor or provide any other form of livelihood support and then just walk away. That doesn't make the endeavour sustainable. So, after construction was finished, CRDT conducted training sessions with all beneficiaries of the GlobalGiving 'Renewable Energy for 15 Rural Cambodian Families' project, so those receiving a biodigestor could really make it their own.
They were taught how biogas works, the benefits to them and to the environment, about the link between their lives and climate change issues. Also animal manure 'best practice', how to change spare parts and generally how to keep a biodigestor happy.
Mrs. E Khen said "Thank you to everyone that spent their money to support this project and build this for us. We are really happy to get one!" She is 56, a widow and mother of two children living in Samphin village. She told Mr. Bin Dim, a CRDT Project Officer, that last time biodigestors were built on the island she didn't get one, as funding allows for only so many at a time, but this time she got one! Her enthusiasm was obvious.
Your donations made all this happen, they have literally changed lives.
Thank you all so much from CRDT on behalf of Mr. Khun Seab, Mrs. Sus Lay, Mr. Sok Youn, Mrs. Mei Pheara, Mrs. E Khen, Mrs. Sok Khorn, Mrs. Duk Savun, Mr. Mom Kosal, Mr. Chea Chem, Mr. Srey Seng, Mrs. Sao Sophany, Mrs. Khun Set, Mrs. Kim Yeoun, Mr. Nam Nak and Mr. Sem Chhon
If this makes you feel happy, then you might like to support our work further by helping to empower rural Cambodian families to be self reliant. If you are interested in CRDT and would like to connect with us, please join us on Facebook, tweet us on Twitter, or have a look at Cambodia, on Flickr.
Thanks to small donors like you, CRDT has just started construction on renewable, clean biogas projects for eleven families! Seab, Lay, Pheara, Khorn, Niron, Noue, Rom, Sophany, Set, So and Chandra are all now hard at work learning the construction process, digging holes and collecting sand and gravel from around their home. In a few short months, these eleven families will have clean-burning biogas to power lamps and stoves- saving a collective 5-10 hours every day of time spent hacking away as critical forests. With your help these eleven families are taking the lead on their own development and in doing so making huge strides as natural stewards to their environment! Without the support of small donors like you- these biodigesters would not have been built. So it is from the bottom of our hearts that CRDT and our beneficiary communities thank you for being part of the team creating this change.
Cambodia experiences a rainy season for 4 months of the year from May to October (give or take a few weeks) which renders the vast majority of construction work very difficult – if not impossible. The large pits that need to be dug in the earth for the biodigestors would collapse in on themselves come shower or storm, the concrete dome that must be laid and molded into shape will not set if there is water falling from the sky in a day-long deluge… What it boils down to – is that we cannot work under these conditions! Almost all of the country’s structural work ceases at this time of year, CRDT’s included. Construction will begin in November 2010, after the rains have receded in their regularity. How long does a biodigestor take to materialize from hole in the Earth to fully-functioning clean power-making cooking gas and lighting provider? Well, the project beneficiaries put in most of the labor needed to make this happen, so how long a biodigestor takes to be realized very much depends on the life – their farming tasks and responsibilities – of the villagers in question. Anywhere from 4 days to a month is realistic! Here is a couple of sample beneficiaries that wanted to express their impressions of biodigestors… They have not yet been chosen, but are still on the selection list (Please furthermore on the attach file). CRDT conducted a few meetings in Koh Pdao and in Yeav village, Kampong Cham commune, located in the northeast of Cambodia along the Mekong River to get an idea of who wants what… 38 families were represented at the meeting, so – there has to be a transparent way of picking 15 (for now at least – as time ticks on there will be more and more…) families to receive a biodigestor from the funds that you all contributed to (thanks again by the way!) so the method chosen to pick out the current batch of lucky ones was a lucky dip! There is a huge need in this area for biodigestors and it is hard to say why one family should have one more than another in the same village, so to be fair and transparent – hands were dipped, and some got lucky! Another meeting was conducted - as a result there are ten families that registered their name in the lucky draw list (Mr. Mom Kosal, Mr. Oun Sorn, Ms. Mey Pheara, Mrs. Hun Sitha, Mrs. Duk Savun, Ms. Sorn Meta, Ms. Mom Phalin, Mrs. Mom Samnang, Mrs. Sok Khaoun and Mr. Svay Nou) and the name list will be more updated after meetings in other villages are conducted. By the way the selecting process will be finished in mid to late October 2010, and the work construction will begin in November 2010, meanwhile, the sand and stone would be available in place and work construction to easily achieve the goal. Thanks so much to everyone that donated money to make this happen! By the way the selecting process will be finished in mid to late October 2010, and the work construction will begin in November 2010, meanwhile, the sand and stone would be available in place and work construction to easily achieve the goal. Thanks so much to everyone that donated money to make this happen! In the meantime, you may be interested to see our other Global Giving project, working with indigenous people in the forest land of Mondulkiri. It is an area of very low food security and CRDT are helping these communities produce more and more variety of food themselves, through sustainable agriculture, in order to be less dependent on fragile forest resources. See the project here: http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/help-ethnic-cambodians-conserve-300k-of-tropical-forest/ Thanks! You’ll hear from us again in November
So the Global Giving Green Challenge has started, we have 25 days left to make our targets and open up Global Giving as an invaluable tool for helping the disadvantaged in Cambodia.
We want to provide 15 rural families with biogas to power their homes, but if we win this challenge we can give this clean and renewable source of cooking gas and lighting to many more families that really need it.
We can do it with your help.
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