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IAP’s private sector support brings clean water to rural Cambodia
Despite being essential for all life, globally some 2.2 billion people still do not have access to safe water for drinking and sanitation (WHO/UNICEF 2019). This sees over 1,000 children die each day from preventable diarrhoeal diseases. Despite its importance, few private sector companies have shown an interest in the clean water business, particularly in rural and hard to reach areas where they perceive there to be minimal returns and high investment costs.
The Innovations Against Poverty programme seeks to change these perceptions through co-funding private companies to establish clean water treatment plants and bring sustainable, clean water to rural areas. In Cambodia, access to clean piped water in rural areas is still very low. Consequently, there remain high levels of waterborne disease in the rural population.
In 2018, with fund support from IAP, WE Venture was established with the purpose of providing treated water to rural communities. In January 2019, WE Venture completed their first water treatment plant in Prek Chik commune in Battambang Province.
With IAP funding to expand the water storage system and Samaritan’s Purse support to extend the main pipe connection We Venture have now expanded into the nearby communes of Robos Mongkul and Moung. As of June 2022, 6,224 people, across the two communes were connected to the We Venture system and, for the first time, given access to clean water.
Water treatment has provided enormous benefits for these rural households. An impact assessment led by independent consultants, 60 Decibels, reported that in Prek Chik commune 90% of residents had assess to clean water for the first time, with another 46% reporting that their quality of life was ‘very much’ improved.
As Kruy Chanrith, General Manager of the We Venture Company explains. “With support from the IAP project, we can provide clean water to rural people. It is a basic need and we make sure that our water is clean and of good quality. Before the project rural people had to travel far for water but now, they just turn on their tap.”
Off grid customers gain access to clean water and clean power
WidEnergy Africa Ltd has deployed two off-grid boxes to the Southern Province of Zambia in Nyawa village of the Kazungula District. With its population of over 11,075, many in Kazangula communities struggle to access clean water and most households are living without access to main grid electricity.
The off-grid box is a turnkey containerized solar energy solution providing battery charging and water purification systems. Each box comes with family kits of three 2 watt LED bulbs, one mobile phone adapter, one lithium battery pack, along with a jerrycan for water collection. To increase affordability, households will be offered a family kit on a monthly subscription.
This is the core of WidEnergy’s innovative approach, targeting rural household that are not connected to the main grid with solar family kits for lighting and purified water. Delivering clean energy and clean drinking water will improve health, education, and generate saving for families, while reducing their carbon footprint by replacing kerosene lamps, firewood and candles. The company plans to deploy an additional four off grid boxes before the end of 2022.
Financial Inclusion unlocks smallholder participation in Uzima’s business value chain
Uzima Chicken’s innovative social enterprise approach is directed towards making smallholder farmers wealthier and healthier through the distribution of improved and resilient SASSO poultry breeds.
Support from IAP has allowed Uzima to expand further into the rural areas of Uganda, and they now engage some 342 male and 184 female smallholder brooding agents. With mature SASSO bird’s earning a farmer between 8€ to 11€, all of Uzima’s farmers have seen their incomes grow. Further jobs, and income generation has been created for over 1,396 male and 598 female distributors, at the same time Uzima have created 67 jobs for youths who work as district sales representatives to ensure quality service delivery.
Uzima support their farmers in managing poultry and provide training in rearing and vaccinating birds so that they can minimise losses. Aware of the financial hurdles that many rural smallholder chicken brooders face, Uzima have created an agreement with FINCA Uganda. This microfinance deposit Institution will guarantee startup loans, ranging from 251€ to 1,255€, with a 3% monthly interest rate to cover up to 50% of each brooders initial investment in chicks.
As they develop their distribution network, Uzima are exploring other financing options in the hope that their distributors will be able to purchase distribution equipment and personal protective wear. Currently, Uzima are looking at evaluating the performance of brooder loans with an eye to further scaling them to cover more smallholder brooders.
Mukusu demonstrates improvements brought about by mechanised farming
Farm mechanization levels across Uganda are very low. Mukusu Motors aims to change this by offering mechanization services for hire to smallholder farmers through a digital booking platform called Hello Tractor.
To create demand for these services, Mukusu is organizing demonstration events across Eastern Uganda. These events expose farmers to the range of functions that tractors can offer beyond just ploughing, such as harrowing, planting and harvesting. It costs around EUR 25 per acre for a first ploughing, as opposed to EUR 20 for traditional ploughing methods. With manual labour becoming ever harder and costlier to secure, it is only a matter of time before this price difference diminishes to the point where labour will be more expensive than hiring a tractor.
More importantly, mechanized tilling has the potential to increase yields by up to 50% per acre through better soil preparation and more consistent planting. Compared with traditional land preparation methods, a lot of time is saved which can then be used for poultry, livestock, and other off-farm activities, or more school time for children that help on farms. For farmers who rent land, reduced man-hours means that they can rent more farmland and increase both their productivity and returns. Mukusu will launch the Hello Tractor app later this year, giving smallholder farmers across Eastern Uganda access to affordable tractor services.
Increasing smallholder farm productivity, incomes and climate resilience
Afriseed Ltd has introduced two new improved seed varieties in Zambia that may well cause a shift in smallholder agriculture , from maize mono-cropping to the more lucrative Mbereshi beans, as well as the drought-tolerant orange maize. The Mbereshi beans are rich in iron and zinc, while the orange maize variety is fortified with vitamin A.
For smallholder farmers, Mbereshi bean production is arguably a better alternative to traditional maize production. Beans cultivation is more profitable and can be sold on the open market. Since the Mbereshi bean variety is not genetically modified, there is good potential for export in the region where consumer demand for beans is high.
To guarantee adequate supply of the improved seed, Afriseed has established a seed multiplication system through smallholder contract farming arrangements in the Copperbelt and Northern Provinces. During the first buy-back round earlier this year, Afriseed bought back more seed than anticipated.
The next step is promoting farmer uptake of the improved seeds. Besides providing farmer training, Afriseed is setting up a last-mile seed distribution network of rural sales centres managed by local women entrepreneurs. At least four of these mobile distribution centres will be up and running before the start of the raining season in November.
Making a big impact on the cooking culture of Ethiopian restaurants
Anega Energies Manufacturing has launched their new improved efficiency commercial cookstove, the Quayton efficient fan forced gasifier cookstove. Designed for both households and commercial scale cooking, the Quayton fuel pellet stove has the potential to replace the current charcoal and wood burners that dominate urban Ethiopian kitchens.
Anega’s first client is one of Addis Ababa’s leading franchise restaurants. With seven branches around the city and employing 760 people, to date, their restaurants have relied on wood and charcoal cooking fuel, using up to 469 kilograms of charcoal each day, the equivalent of around 4.7 tonnes of wood.
The restaurant was first introduced to Anega’s Quayton stove through a customer. After seeing the product in action, the restaurateur immediately bought 10 stoves directly from the company. Anega used this opportunity to introduce both the household and commercial pellet stoves and after testing the product for stewing and enjera baking, The restaurant placed their first order for 3 institutional scale stoves, 4 household pellet stoves, and 18 enjera baking stoves.
This serves as a solid stepping-stone for Anega to take a leap into the market and begin attracting universities, schools and other institutions that use cooking fuels that cause negative health impacts. Anega presents an attractive offer for its customers with a payback period of 6 months to 1 year on their investment through reduced cost fuel pellets, saving both cost and time, on top of an important reduction in indoor air pollution and CO2 emissions.
By end of 2023, Anega aims to provide more than 14,000 people living in poverty with access to sustainable energy sources for cooking by converting an estimated 7800 tonnes of biomass waste to fuel pellets. This will see a reduction of up to 7,500 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.
Increasing yields and incomes through improved yield seeds
East-West Seed introduced high-quality seeds and agronomical support services with the aim of improving farmers’ lives through increased agricultural productivity and raised incomes. Now, having conducted crop demonstrations to create and increase awareness of the importance of improved seeds and agricultural techniques, EWS is implementing an inclusive agricultural project in four provinces in Cambodia.
To guarantee high-quality seeds, EWS, through its subsidiary East-West Seed Knowledge Transfer (EWS-KT), provides embedded agricultural technical skills, crop demonstration and training. Since implementing the project, around 200 demonstration farms have showcased cucumber, yard long bean, bitter gourd and watermelon raising for over 3,500 farmers, including 1400 female farmers.
By improving farmers’ knowledge and supplying them with improved seed varieties, higher yields of up to 20% for dry season cucumbers have been achieved in comparison to regular seeds and traditional technical agricultural practices.
Climate Smart Agriculture practices have been included in the EWS technical guides and practical technical training. This includes using mulching film to protect soil from erosion and retain moisture, applying compost to improve soil fertility, introducing drip irrigation for efficient water-saving and the introduction of crop rotation to maintain soil fertility and reduce pests and diseases. EWS, sales revenues have been increasing in the four focus provinces due to the high demand for EWS seeds.
Due to these successes, EWS will be conducting more crop demonstrations and farmer field days. This will allow farmers, especially those who have not used EWS seeds before, to see the results for themselves.
SOGE increase incomes and reduce production costs
Solar Green Energy saw the first harvest supported by their innovative solar irrigation technology in June 2022. SOGE’s hybrid-solar systems provide year-round water supplies for rice farmers, through drawing water from nearby rivers and pumping it into canals that feed adjacent farms. This extra water made available to farmers during the dry season sees paddy properly irrigated, reducing weed growth and increasing the available area for rice planting.
Initially targeting some 350 smallholder farmers and irrigating 1000 hectares of paddy, improved irrigation will bring a significant increase in harvests, whilst bringing much needed revenue to rural, often poverty-stricken areas. As incomes and local expenditures rise, so too will the social impact for families and communities in each target area.
SOGE have installed three irrigation systems in Boeung Chhouk, Kampong Krasang Krom and Kampong Krasang Ler villages in Cambodia, with each system able to irrigate 50 hectares of land. To date, SOGE’s sustainable clean energy irrigation system has benefited some 227 smallholder farmers who no longer need to move, maintain or provide expensive fuel for ageing diesel generators.
This June the first fully irrigated dry season rice harvest saw famers reporting an increase in their yields of between one half and one ton of rice, leading to increased incomes at reduced production costs.
Utilising the trust they have built over their 15 years’ experience in the Cambodia energy sector and their commercial success and the social benefits provided so far, SOGE is looking to scale its business to other locations across the country. Currently, IAP is supporting SOGE to conduct a market study to assess the potential for these plans. The study will be released in July 2022.
HUSK open a new facility and double biochar production
Husk Ventures has begun operations at its new biochar production facility in Bosveng village. This new site, situated on the Amru Rice milling company premises, allows HUSK to double its biochar production whilst providing space for new equipment.
Equipped with new machinery purchased with IAP funding, HUSK can now double their production of biochar. As demand grows, their team is working double shifts to keep up with the market for biochar. This includes international entities seeking to buy carbon removal certificates.
The value proposition of Husk’s product for Cambodian farmers is that it increases yields through improved soil fertility and, as biochar needs to be applied less often than conventional fertilizer, reduced costs.
Over the coming months, the company will be launching an improved carbon-based fertilizer, called CBF+, which will be sold in different sized packages to cater to the needs of small-scale horticulture and rice farmers. Read more about HUSK here
Super Farmers changing the face of Cambodia agriculture
HUSK’s focus is far from purely environmental, they work hard to see that their business has a meaningful social impact.
Securing Land Ownership
The Biogas Injera Stove
Smallholders as True Shareholders Part 1
The first part of our article on empowering smallholders through innovative farming cooperative models, published in 2018