In partnership with solar panel producer Nexsis Australia and with funding from the Rotary Club of Gawler Light, Dana Asia is bringing clean water solutions and entrepreneurial training to a rural high school in Siem Reap.

Cambodia’s rural communities face limited access to clean water supplies and existing drinking water sources often contain dangerous levels of arsenic and e-coli. Recurring droughts and floods also contribute to unstable and unreliable water supplies, with climate change steadily worsening the situation. Approximately 80% of Cambodia’s 16.25 million (source: World Bank, 2018) population lives in rural areas, up to 30% of which have no access to power grids. Rural communities in Siem Reap province rely on bore holes and wells for their water supply, with several households sometimes relying on one joint source. Many families run out of water during the hottest summer months and purchasing clean water puts further strain on already stretched household finances, not to mention contributes to the huge plastic waste problem Cambodia faces.

With abundant sun all year round, Cambodia is a perfect fit for solar energy solutions. Solving issues of water shortage through solar energy is an emerging concept in many developing countries and has exciting potential for the next generation in terms of training and employment opportunities. Dana Asia has already been exploring the potential of solar power to produce clean drinking water, hot water and electricity across its poultry social business projects, where panels are set up in Outgrower sheds. During an eight-hour period, one panel can produce 2L of drinking water, 50L of hot water and 12 volts of electricity, which can be used on heat lamps and lights for the young chicks for three to five hours overnight.

To take this to the next step, we are now working in partnership with a Dana Asia-supported high school in Siem Reap to develop a project that incorporates Entrepreneurship into the school’s Economics curriculum and sets up solar panels to produce clean water that can be sold as a social business venture for income for the school. The project will give rural students an opportunity to learn about renewable energy and give them practical skills in setting up and operating their own micro-business, while producing clean drinking water for the school students and surrounding community. Another important aspect of this is finding bottling alternatives to reduce single-use plastics.

Schools have been closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, but they are set to reopen in October 2021. We are now working with the school’s Economics teacher to develop the basic curriculum with a view to kickstart the project when schools return.