On Sunday, September th, EWB was featured on Channel ‘s p.m. news broadcast. The story focused on EWB’s work around Cambodia’s Tonle Sap, a region three hours north of Phnom Penh where rapid deforestation combined with open defecation and the use of chemical fertilizers cause tremendous stress upon this ecosystem and the millions of Cambodians that call it home.
Since , EWB has worked in partnership with Live & Learn Environmental Education on its biodigesters program to address energy and sanitation issues within the flood prone-region. The biodigesters program involves leveraging anaerobic digestion to turn human and animal waste into biogas for cooking and lighting, and fertilizer with which to grow crops. The technology has been tailored specifically to address the needs of small-scale farmers. % of rural Cambodians are forced to make their living off the land.
Following the broadcast, biodigesters managing director Ben Jeffreys was featured in a guest post on Google Australia’s blog. The post centered around the stories of two long-term biodigester users: Long Sokhon, a small-scale farmer from Cambodia’s Pursat Province and Sin Saroun, a mother in Kampong Chnnang. Both women discussed how their lives have been improved since adopting the technology. Long Sokhon saw her health increase due to the clean burning biogas. Sin Saroun saved time and money previously allocated to fertilizer, which she now dedicates to her children.Between and EWB and Live & Learn installed biodigesters around the region. In the project was awarded a Google Impact Challenge grant of $, AUD in order to scale the project into a locally run social enterprise.
In his post, Jeffreys discussed some of the next steps in scaling the program into a sustainable business.
“At the moment, a major focus of the program is optimising the product’s value proposition. Maximising user uptake is a crucial component of addressing downstream sanitation affects. This is particularly important should the product go to market with a user-pay, rather than subsidies-based model. The current biodigester prototypes cost $ USD per unit. Although this eventually pays itself off by reducing the user’s day-to-day cost, the upfront investment still stands at / of the annual rural Cambodia salary. We believe that an approximate two-year payback period, similar to current solar technology in Cambodia and Australia, seems reasonable.”
The goal is now to build a business that provides sanitation, energy and livelihood options to . million Cambodians by .