Like millions of people living in rural Cambodia, Von Srey Keo still relies on biomass—firewood, charcoal, and organic matter—to cook food and heat her home.
But nearly three-quarters of the wood material in Cambodia is non-renewable, making the demand for biomass energy a major driver of deforestation.
That’s why Srey Keo is working with The Group for the Environment, Renewable Energy and Solidarity (GERES). Over the past 15 years, GERES has addressed forest degradation in Cambodia by supporting the production and sales of a domestic low-energy cookstoves. The benefits go beyond energy efficiency, though; for people like Srey Keo, these stoves represent an opportunity to start a small business.
In 2012, Srey Keo joined a training organized by GERES for future New Lao Stove producers and took out a loan of $1,000 from a microfinance bank to help set up her business. In the first few months of production, she, with help from her husband, mother and brother, produced some 115 stoves each month.
“Being a worker could not provide enough income for our family,” Srey Keo says. “I felt really scared when I started the business—I had no money and had to take out a loan. But I’m not scared anymore. I am confident and we manage very well.”
In economic terms, this small business model is also sustainable and scalable. In Cambodia, GERES connected a community of cookstove producers from Kampong Chhnang and 6 other provinces with distributors and retailers to support market access for their products. Now, over 300 rural microentrepreneurs serve 900,000 Cambodian homes with improved cooking solutions: That adds up to 1,413,311 tons of wood saved between 2003 and 2013.
Building on this success, GERES is now working to replicate the cookstove business model in Myanmar, where more than 90% of the population also relies on biomass and inefficient, highly polluting cookstoves. If stories like Srey Keo’s are any indicator, the future of Asia’s forests, families and economy is looking cleaner and brighter.
Group for the Environment, Renewable Energy and Solidarity
Addressing social and economic causes and effects, Safeguarding fragile resources
Institutional solutions, Market mechanisms, Technology
—Srey Keo, New Lao Stove producer
“Being a worker could not provide enough income for our family. I felt really scared when I started the business – I had no money and had to take out a loan. But I’m not scared anymore. I am confident and we manage very well.”