The recipe for peace starts with manure and ends with a breath of clean air. But for Socheatta*, clean air was just the beginning of a new way to live and breathe when she first started using her biodigester-fuelled clean cookstove. As a mother of two, Socheatta lives on Kor Island, one of Cambodia’s many flood-prone islands just south of Phnom Penh. The island itself has a grisly past, first serving as a prison mostly for women under the Khmer Rouge, then as a “re-education” center for prostitutes and outcasts. Scarred by years of horrific, prolonged conflict, Cambodia is on a long road to recovery. Socheatta is focused on looking ahead for a better life.
And that is what her new biogas cookstove means—a more dignified way of living and a step toward a more sustainable, peaceful future. ATEC Biodigesters revolutionized her home and daily life. Its clean cooking solution is powered by a biodigester- a system that collects and treats manure, human, kitchen and green waste and effectively converts this into the valuable resources of 500-1500L of biogas per day and 20 tons of organic fertilizer per year. Each biodigester comes with a twin biogas cookstove and a rice cooker.
“We have enjoyed less illness such as a cough, sore throat and eye irritation. We did not know it was caused by the smoke produced by the traditional wood cookstoves.”
With 90% of the country’s poor living in the countryside, families such as Socheatta’s are no longer confined to firewood as their daily fuel source- a burden fraught with environmental and health issues. Firewood is a major cause of illegal logging as well as household air pollution (HAP) – one of the most lethal environmental health risks worldwide and a disproportionate killer of women and children in Cambodia. Furthermore, with almost 5 million rural Cambodians vulnerable to falling back into poverty, there is no room for risks to food supply and reduced farmer income—a worsening reality of poor soil management and heavy chemical fertilizer use.
Beyond clean cooking, the biodigesters also translate into savings on fertilizers and improved farm productivity, reduced costs on wood and gas, and increased productivity by saving time spent on cooking and collecting fuel. Socheatta and others, who are adopting this new clean cooking model are helping save trees and forests while clamping down on carbon emissions.
Adoption and use of each such biodigester is an incremental change that is making a bite-sized dent in the way Cambodia lives and breathes, on its road to full recovery. This is just one of the many ways in which IIX’s impact enterprises are weaving inclusion, development, accountability and growth together in Cambodia.
*Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.