Empowering rural poor communities in Cambodia, one at a time

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A Community Water Enterprise water treatment plant in Cambodia.

The Water Crisis in Cambodia

Cambodia has one of the fastest growing GDPs in Asia, but more than 11.8 million of the population still lack access to a safely managed drinking water source, of which 10.4 million live in rural areas. The lack of access to safe water and sanitation services leaves children especially vulnerable to waterborne diseases. In Cambodia, diarrhea is the second leading cause of death for children under the age of five.

The Lien AID Approach – Empowering Local Communities

Established in Singapore in 2006, Lien AID has been delivering clean water and sanitation access in Cambodia since 2007, through sanitation marketing and the construction of clean water facilities for schools and health centres.

Going beyond the traditional approach of only focusing on infrastructure delivery, Lien AID developed the Community Water Enterprise (CWE) programme in 2011, which focuses on the training of local governments and selected village social entrepreneurs to manage and operate small-scale, community-owned water stations. Bottled in 20-litre reusable containers, villagers are able to purchase treated drinking water at affordable rates, within a convenient distance to their homes. By equipping local communities with the necessary knowledge and tools, it is envisioned  that  the Community Water Enterprises can deliver sustainable clean water services without the need for additional donations.

To date, more than 370,000 rural poor across 11 provinces in Cambodia have gained access to treated drinking water as a result of the CWE programme and Lien AID’s partnerships with other organisations such as UNICEF (Cambodia), the Prince Albert II Monaco Foundation, Sabana REIT, the Embassy of  the Czech Republic (Phnom Penh), the Ministry of Rural Development Cambodia, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Singapore.

Lum Chey, Water Entrepreneur from Pou Andait village, Pursat province. Under the CWE Programme, water entrepreneurs such as Lum Chey are trained to operate and maintain the water treatment plant as well as in basic business skills. Water entrepreneurs contribute a portion of their earnings towards local community development.

Partnership with Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) Singapore

Last year, two Community Water Enterprises that were established with the support of Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) Singapore were handed over to the communities at Ta An and Msar Krang. Through these projects, 2,023 households and 10 schools gained access to clean drinking water. Singapore volunteers from Nanyang Technological University and Conjunct Consulting also conducted an evaluation study in the two communes to better understand villagers’ perspectives of the CWE initiative.

Impact of Lien AID’s CWE Programme

Se Hin, a provision shop owner  in  Anglong Tean village, Takeo province. Se Hin was able to earn more income after a Community Water Enterprise was established in her commune. “People used to spend twice as much on imported water from Vietnam. Now they have more money to buy snacks and drinks. I have more income to send my children to school.”

Cham Nan, a water entrepreneur from Toul Pultrea village, Takeo province. Cham Nam left his job in a food factory and now runs a Community Water Enterprise with his wife. For him, clean water means  hope for a better future for his growing family.  “Not only am I able to provide for my family, I also learned  to run my own business. I think I am more responsible and confident now.”

Kim Ly, a rice farmer from Toul Pultrea village, Takeo province. The bottled water from CWE costs less than half the price of the imported bottled water that Kim used to buy. Kim was able to save more money for his children’s education, and could even afford to buy more cows.  “I have four cows now. And I have more rice.”

For more information on Lien AID’s initiatives and how you can partner with them, please visit www.lienaid.org.

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