Box 4.4 Cambodia harnesses bioenergy in small applications with a big impact
In Bot Trand village, Cambodia, most families are involved in subsistence farming, owning less than one hectare of land. With per capita incomes averaging about US$2 a day many families, if faced with a bad agricultural year, have a hard time affording basic necessities including food. Recognising the pressure that the high cost of diesel imposes on these families, a jatropha project was started to generate employment and offset the high cost of fuel. Jatropha has been grown for many years in Cambodia.
Over the past few years a small energy revolution has taken place in the village of Bot Trang in northwest Cambodia. Bot Trang is not on Cambodia’s national
grid: in the old days Mr. Tham Bun Hak, a local farmer, would supply 80 households in the village with electricity from his diesel fired generator – but now it’s all run on jatropha. With the assistance of local NGOs and public partnerships, Mr. Tham developed a jatropha project that has made jatropha oil two- third less expensive than diesel. Now more affordable electricity can be delivered to the village and because of that, every family has been able to save money.
Besides electricity generation, Jatropha has brought other benefits. Villagers earn extra income by growing jatropha and that extra income can help fuel further entrepreneurship and business. For example, families such as the Tham family now have additional capital
Energy costs in Bot Trang village, Cambodia Cost categories
NB: In rural areas, with little regular scope for employment, harvesting is not always paid but it may be counted as two hours’ work.
Source: Energia, Biofuels for Sustainable Development and the Empowerment of Women, 2009.
to make their business more efficient. The capital has given them the opportunity to replace old sewing machines with more efficient electric ones, and they are able to increase productivity.
Other villages in Cambodia are now following Bot Trang’s example and using jatropha fuelled power. This case study illustrates that bioenergy can foster economic development and help to grow even small, local Green Economies.
Sources: Energia (2009) Biofuels for Sustainable Development and the Empowerment of Women. Case Studies from Africa and Asia, University of Amsterdam (2006) Size Does Matter: The possibilities of cultivating jatropha curcas for biofuel in Cambodia