The SWITCH to Solar Project

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A glimpse into the potential of solar technologies for productive use

Though most people know what solar power is, the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about this renewable energy might not necessarily be its use in the agriculture sector. Yet, solar powered technologies can have many applications in this sector, at all levels of the value chains from production, to processing all the way to the retail of products. Besides the more common solar water pumps and solar egg incubators, there is a wide variety of technologies powered by solar that can be used to improve productivity in agriculture, aquaculture and fisheries. The SWITCH to Solar Project has been working for the past year in identifying which of those technologies would have the most potential in the Tonle Sap area of Cambodia.

Following are two case studies showcasing the possibilities of solar technologies for productive use.

Solar dryer at Baca Villa

Solar dryer might be one of the more unknown technologies to the general public, yet it holds quite a lot of potential, especially in a country like Cambodia where the market for dried products is significant. Solar dryers use direct or indirect heat in an enclosed box, sometimes combined with a fan, to dry different types of products, ranging from herbs, spices and nuts to fish and meat.

Beca Villa is one example on how solar dryers can be used through innovative models to dry products more productively. Baca Villa Farm is cultivating Moringa trees and other herbs and spices (Ginger, Turmeric, Galangal, Kaffir Lime, Lemongrass, etc.) near Siem Reap. They use a model of contract farming and source their raw materials from 25 small surrounding farms for a total of 50 ha. The contracted farms are provided with seeds as well as loans to invest into irrigation systems, and receive technical trainings. Not only this, but Baca Villa is also providing solar dryers to the contracted farmers, so that they can dry their production on-site without any fee, and then sell the dried moringa leaf to Baca-Villa. The dried leaves are then transported to Baca-Villa factory in Siem Reap, to go through the next processing steps. Instead of collecting the products fresh and drying them all at once at the Baca Villa factory, this first on-site drying step enables to reduce losses happening during transport, that used to reach as high as 30% when products were transported fresh. Using solar dryers instead of sun-drying also enables to speed up the drying time while ensuring the quality and hygiene of the products, which are all certified organic.

 

UNICA Cold storage for fish products by UNICA

Cold Storage has lately become the focus of much attention from both the public and private sectors. Indeed, it bears tremendous potential in improving the quality and hygiene of vegetables, meat and fish trade in Cambodia, while helping to reduce losses. There is also a great opportunity to switch cold storage to solar, as cold storage requires 24/7 energy supply meaning it is costly to operate. Yet, the investment needed is high and it might not make sense for all stakeholders. The case of UNICA helps shed light to both the pros and cons of such a technology.

UNICA is a fish processing company, established in 2014 and working with 3 fishing communities in Pursat, Kampong Cham and Siem Reap. Cold storage is key to their activity to maintain products quality, reduce losses, improve shelf life and altogether respect food standards. So far, they have been using freezers for the storage of fresh fish and chillers for the storage and display of processed fish. Though it might seem inconvenient to use so many technologies (they have more than 16 freezers and chillers in total) instead of one cold room, there are actually benefits in doing so. Indeed, fish products are very seasonal and having multiple small technologies gives UNICA much more flexibility: during the high season, they use the full capacity of their chillers and freezers, and during the low season, they turn off unneeded appliances and thus save energy and the cost of electricity. Using one solar cold room doesn’t give this kind of flexibility as the room will need to be powered more or less equally no matter the capacity it is being used. Yet, a solar cold room would help drastically reduce energy costs during the high season, it provides much more storage capacity and is easier in terms of cleaning. UNICA hasn’t decided yet whether to invest in a solar cold room or not, still their weighing of pros and cons of switching to a solar cold room shows that solar technologies have both benefits and constraints, and they ultimately have to be suited to the needs of the end-user.

 

Author: Chloe Deparis, Project Manager at Sevea Consulting

 

Featured

Solar Cold Storage Webinar

The SWITCH to Solar project would like to invite you to participate in the Solar Cold Storage Webinar on Wednesday 23rd June, 2-4pm.

For registration: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_anpEzKZ8RSCa0bwyOCFhTw

The opportunities for the development of the cold chain in the Cambodian agri-fishery sector are getting growing attention, and rightfully so as improving cold storage could help reduce losses and improve the quality and freshness of products.

This webinar aims to strengthen the knowledge around cold storage to build a stronger enabling ecosystem facilitating these solutions’ scale up in the coming years. By showcasing local and international case studies, it also wishes to demonstrate different solutions that have shown great results and could potentially be replicated.

Agenda 

  • 2:00pm – 2:20pm: Introduction
    • Presentation of the SWITCH to Solar Project – Hugo Agostinho, Project Director of SWITCH [Language: ENG] 
    • Presentation of PFAN – Mark Lister [Language: ENG]

  • 2:20pm – 2:50pm: Current situation and opportunities of cold storage in Cambodia
    • Results of the study conducted on the challenges and opportunities for cold storage as part of the SWITCH to Solar Project – Phanith Chou, Sevea [Language: KH]
    • Presentation of the National Cooling Action Plan – Mr. Tea Thyro, General Department of Environmental Protection, Ministry of Environment [Language: KH] 

  • 2:50pm – 3:10pm: Showcase of local case studies
    • AgriOn, cold storage in the vegetable value chain – Khin Marith [Language: KH] 
    • UNICA, cold storage in the fish value chain – Mary Lep [Language: KH]

  • 3:10pm – 3:30pm: Showcase of international case studies as part of the PFAN projects
    • CoolCrop, Solar Powered Decentralized Cold storage for farmers in India [Language: ENG] 
    • ACI Agrolink Limited, Complete value chain solution for shrimps and fishes in Bangladesh [Language: ENG]

  • 3:30pm – 4:00pm: Q&A 

Language: Khmer and English

For more information, please visit http://www.switchtosolarkh.org

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/switchtosolarcambodia

Engaging Cambodian youths in clean energy sector through the internship program

Our world is currently having a defining moment as global energy has become an alarming issue. This requires involvement from various actors. Youth – amongst all, is one of the leading groups who act to create greater awareness on this issue. It is vital that youths, as a future generation, can incorporate the term ‘green’ into their mindsets and have their voice heard further with our support as the backbone. 

With a program called ‘Clean Energy Internship’, initiated by EnergyLab Cambodia, the youths are given opportunities to receive training on both soft and hard skills, and join various clean energy companies. No strict criterion is set for the applicants, except for obtaining high commitment in clean energy promotion. 

From the very last phase, students from all sorts of backgrounds joined the program, from Business Management, Community Development, Accounting and Finance, Environmental Science to Engineering. This drew a wide pool of talent into the sector and allowed a growing number of qualified youths who are ready to work in this particular sector. Different internship posts were opened such as Digital Marketing, Solar Engineering, Community Development Representative, Sale Representative, Project Management, to name a few, which indicates how diverse the program is and encourages participation from all despite their backgrounds. Simply means, in tackling energy issues, everyone’s participation matters. 

Concrete experiences sharing from the interns

Thatt Iengmonor is a recent graduate from Community Development Major at the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP). Monor started his internship journey during his final semester with Eco Green Energy (EGE) Cambodia for a good 3 months. He started from scratch and worked his way up to a full-time project coordinator for the whole company’s projects. EGE mainly imports solar technologies, provides installation, and consultation services on solar energy consumption to local communities

Monor’s background involves natural resource management, economic and community development, and organizing social enterprise projects. Though the role of the Agricultural Development Representative seems overly technical for Monor, he considers it as a learning opportunity. His responsibility involves conducting studies on the demand and cost of energy needs for farmers from small to a larger scale farming, studying the elements and power capacities of the solar technologies, and measuring the energy capacity needs for a certain farm size. 

Throughout the internship journey, Monor is grateful for the communication skills he has excelled in. 

‘Building networks with communities and communicating with relevant
stakeholders have helped me negotiate better and more effectively with clients
from various backgrounds, from factories, enterprises to higher-up levels.
Working in this sector is not simple. We need to know how to talk to people in
a persuasive way,’
says Monor.
‘Otherwise, we cannot build trust from our clients’, he adds.


Monor with his supervisor and colleagues (Photo credit: Thatt Lengmonor)
Monor received certificate of completion (Photo credit: Thatt Lengmonor)

At school, theory-based knowledge could not give him a clear picture of clean energy. After this internship, he gained a deeper understanding on clean energy and technologies, and customers’ demand for clean technologies, mainly solar-based products. More interestingly, Monor has got chances to visit actual farms and witness clearly that solar technologies indeed offer back a huge return for farmers. ‘It helps farmers save energy consumption and increase their daily income. This also helps promote the use of clean energy at a wider scale’, he adds.

Among the 13 peer members is Sovanmony Tea who worked as a Digital Marketing Intern at Oyika, a Japanese company supplying electric vehicle and battery swap services. Upon her internship period, Mony was still a senior student majoring in Global Affairs at the American University of Phnom Penh (AUPP). Minoring in Economics, Mony’s goal is to have an extensive insight on challenges of the clean energy market in Cambodia. Even with the least relevant background in the clean energy sector, Mony’s potential is not any less, especially her potential, and commitment to the Digital Marketing field she chose.  

Mony finds this field very interesting and highly effective in promoting green technology awareness. 

Our world has been going digital, and social
media content is another form of message that we can effectively deliver to our
target. ‘Before the program, I only used social media for personal reasons,
but after joining this program, I understand that we can actually use social
media for good,’
Mony expresses brightly.


As a digital marketer at Oyika, her main role includes raising awareness on green mobility through content creation. ‘I am glad to be able to help people understand in a simpler way about green vehicles through the content I created,’ says Mony. 

Mony presented about her internship experiences (Photo credit: Tea Sovanmony)

Through this internship program, EnergyLab provided many training and mentorship on communications, networking, and time and task management, which are ideal for college students and fresh graduates. Mony expresses, ‘while working at the company, I did not just assist the work; instead, I was given the chance to take initiative on digital marketing works. I was nervous that I could not do well as I am inexperienced; yet I was nervous for nothing. My ideas were accepted and appreciated by the team, and that pushed me to try harder in this role’. 

Mony thinks that youths’ involvement in this sector is crucial, as she thinks that the commitment, no matter how big or small, it means something. Youths’ voice matters in society. Hence, having more youths understand climate change, the issue can be voiced louder to everyone in society.

Mony said she’s ‘glad’ when asked about how she felt about the internship. ‘It’s glad in a way that it offers you learning experiences, yet there were some pains as well. But without pain, of course, there’s no gain. At the end of the day, it’s a fruitful journey, and I highly appreciate this chance offered by EnergyLab,’ Mony shares appreciatively.

Meanwhile, Monor says, ‘I think of the term capacity building. It teaches youths to be qualified enough and get ready for their career prospects’.

As for future plans, Mony wants to pursue her Master Degree in SDG’s related specialties, and if possible, working in Digital Marketing field, but in broader work scope. Her goal is to manage bigger projects and work in a more diversified team. Both would like to call for all youths to be involved in clean energy promotion. More or less, it’s the impact that matter. 

About the Internship Program and the SWITCH to Solar project

This ‘Clean Energy Internship’ is initiated and implemented by EnergyLab to provide a clearer career prospect for specifically senior college students and fresh graduates. Mainly, to give them opportunities to work in clean energy-based companies. This program ensures that youths can explore themselves deeper within the sector, and be a ready workforce once completed the assignment.

This program is co-funded by the EU-SWITCH Asia Programme  granted project – SWITCH to Solar. The project is implemented across the Tonle Sap Region in Cambodia, having People in Need, EnergyLab Cambodia, and Sevea Consulting as the leading implementers. This project aims to support MSMEs in the target region to switch to using solar-based technologies with the purpose of promoting clean energy and fostering green employment in the agri-fisheries sector. 

Author: Sophika Kun, PIN Cambodia Communications Officer

SWITCH to Solar: New partnership with CE SAIN to start rolling out

Adding on to the current network of the #SWITCHtoSolar project, we are excited to partner with the Center of Excellence on Sustainable Agricultural Intensification and Nutrition (CE SAIN) of the Royal University of Agriculture in the Kingdom of Cambodia.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) virtual signing ceremony was conducted on 10th August, 2021 to establish the cooperation between CE SAIN and the consortium of the SWITCH to Solar project. Both parties intend to strengthen further the awareness-raising and promotion of productive use of solar technologies in agriculture, fisheries, and aquaculture sectors.

Virtual MoU signing event between PIN and CE SAIN. (Photo by: CE SAIN)

The SWITCH to Solar project is funded by the European Union through the EU SWITCH-Asia Programme and the Czech Republic through Czech Development Agency. SWITCH to Solar is implemented across 5 provinces in Cambodia by 3 partners; People in Need (PIN) Cambodia, Sevea Consulting, and EnergyLab Cambodia. The project aims to contribute to sustainable and inclusive economic growth in rural Cambodia by reducing the environmental impacts of MSMEs and consumers’ energy consumption and generating green employment opportunities in the Agriculture and Fisheries sector. Having CE SAIN as an addition to the team will help us achieve greater results in outreaching MSMEs in the agriculture and fisheries sector, and raising their awareness on the advantages of using Solar Technologies. Together, we can always go further.

With our shared goal in bringing solar technologies to the next level, we are glad to establish the first ever partnership with CE SAIN. This joint effort enables us to share study results and technical experiences on solar technologies development. I believe this partnership will elevate opportunities to raise awareness on using affordable and highly productive solar technologies for individuals and MSMEs in Agri-fishery communities. We intend to bring more local networks through the existing Agricultural Technology Parks (ATPs) of CE SAIN.

Hugo Agostinho, SWITCH to Solar Program Manager, PIN Cambodia

To date, solar technology is growing with the ongoing demand from various sectors, especially with the continuous development of Cambodia’s agriculture and fisheries sector. CE SAIN’s work is to improve food and nutritional security in Cambodia through supporting to research and development and promote agricultural innovation. The center has partnered with Feed the Future Innovations Labs and other stakeholders to provide a platform for researchers, scientists, and practitioners to demonstrate their innovative technologies for relevant target groups. This partnership is the next step that brings innovative solar technologies forward. The integration between the SWITCH to Solar consortium and CE SAIN will allow a better exchange of information, ideas, and expansion of more extensive networks.

This partnership covers a few aspects of SWITCH to Solar project. Both parties will work closely to link the SWITCH to Solar project activities with current projects/programs of CE SAIN in Cambodia. With CE SAIN’s existing ATPs at the Royal University of Agriculture (RUA), and in multiple provinces such as Battambang, Kompong Cham, Kompong Thom, and Siem Reap, the SWITCH to Solar project will productively and strategically demonstrate solar technologies and promote them amongst agriculture and fisheries MSMEs in the country.

Field visit of university students to the ATP in Battambang (Photo by: CE SAIN)

“Our ATPs are established to showcase agricultural best management practices and serve as a learning platform, a research farm, an internship venue, a synergy program with partners, and a private sector engagement platform. This partnership allows ATPs to add technical demonstration of solar technologies from the SWITCH to Solar project and extend the potential of these promising technologies to our networks”, Lyda Hok. “We are delighted to join efforts for better Agri-fishery communities in Cambodia,” he added.

Lyda Hok, Center Director, CE SAIN
CE SAIN’s ATP (Photo by: CE CAIN)

CE SAIN and the SWITCH to Solar consortium will mutually push for both offline and online awareness-raising campaigns on the importance of solar technologies to relevant students and public and private institutions. It will indeed create a more significant channel that could potently increase awareness about the project’s relevance to a broader range of audiences. Together with our partners, we can showcase the benefits of solar technologies through multiple media platforms and networks such as Facebook, Website, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, and Telegram channel.

Our existing channels:

Facebook pages: People in Need Cambodia, SWITCH to Solar , EnergyLab Cambodia, Sevea, CE SAIN Cambodia   

Websites: People in Need Global, SWITCH to Solar, EnergyLab, Sevea, CE SAIN    

For more inquiries, please contact:

  • Vila Artur, SWITCH Program Manager, People in Need Cambodia

Email: artur.vila@peopleinneed.cz

  • Johanna LEGARTA, Communications Manager, People in Need Cambodia

Email: johanna.legarta@peopleinneed.cz

  • Hok Lyda, Center Director, CE SAIN

Email: hoklyda@rua.edu.kh

  • Nov Sina, Senior Communications Officer, CE SAIN

Email: nsina@rua.edu.kh

This press release was produced by People in Need (PIN) Cambodia with support from CE SAIN Cambodia. 

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