The SWITCH to Solar Project

Advantages of using solar energy for agriculture

Unstable supply of electricity and high operational cost are primary concerns for many agriculture practitioners, many have even dealt serious loses. As a result. a growing number of farms and agricultural businesses are looking to solar to power their daily operations for a number of reasons.

Solar water pump being used in small scale farm in rural area of Cambodia
Image: Choun Sotheavuth (PIN Cambodia)



1. A lot cheaper than fossil fuels
On large farms, solar energy harnessed will result in low cost than fossil fuels. The installation will be costly but once you recover the invested amount the energy you used will be free of cost. Additionally, you get subsidies from state and central government which will help you to easily pay off the cost of installation. 

2. A sensible solution to drought related problems 
Every year farmers worry about drought and power cuts occurring with it. With solar energy panels in place, you don’t have to rely on a third party to carry out your farming activities. Solar panels require minimal water and prove very beneficial in areas with water scarcity. 

3. Getting more advanced
Agriculture has sometimes been slow to adopt technological benefits when compared to other sectors. With using solar energy to power agriculture activities, the farming sector proves that they are ready for more technological advancements. With solar energy on the rise, more farmers use solar energy to run their agricultural activities and this will provoke businesses and researchers to provide farmers with more technologically equipped apparatus. 

4. Storing solar energy for later use
As agricultural land always lives under the fear of interrupted power failures, using solar energy can prove beneficial for many. With new advancements, it is becoming easier to store solar energy for later use. Farmers can store solar energy using batteries during its peak hours and use it later when needed. 

5. The most efficient way to prevent global warming
Global warming is a hot topic of the 21st century. Each sector is trying to reduce its carbon footprint in one or the other way. With farmers adopting solar energy for their agricultural land it will become easier for us to fight the dangerous effects of global warming. 



Cambodia: Improving lives with Solar Energy

Mrs Sor Sar Ngoun is a 57 year-old woman living in Topsrov village, Rolear Pear District, in the Kampong Chhnang province of Cambodia. She has four children, her youngest daughter still lives with her, and the other 3 have all moved to Phnom Penh for work and study. The family’s main livelihood is growing rice and cash crops, from which they earn around 1500 USD per year. Her husband has an additional retirement allowance of 1200 USD per year.

Seven months ago, Mrs Sor gave up on ever being connected to the national electricity grid and purchased a 100 watt solar home system, replacing the single car battery that they previously used to power a single light in their home.

Using a car battery as an energy source was time consuming and expensive, costing the family approximately $157 a year. The battery had to be replaced twice year due to low durability and the family had to bring the battery to a diesel generator charging station at least once a week. The charging station was a long distance away and one charge delivered only 600 Watt hours, enough to power one light and a TV for a short time each night. The solar system delivers 5 times the energy and requires no effort from the family.


Mrs Sor decided to buy a solar home system after she was introduced to the technology by a rural sales entrepreneur from her village. People in Need identify, train and equip solar entrepreneurs in the province to sell accredited solar products, in partnership with Kamworks solar enterprise. Using this market-led approach delivers both a source of income for the entrepreneur and their family and delivers quality products and services to their customers, which in turn leads to word of mouth promotion and technology adoption within communities.


Mrs Sor purchased the system by accessing a low interest micro-loan directly from the solar company using the peer to peer lending scheme. The family now makes monthly payments of $32 using mobile banking services from Wing, a mobile banking service provider in Cambodia, and will pay back the loan in two years. The solar system will be a reliable source of energy for more than 20 years, with the only cost for her family being the replacement of the solar battery every 3 to 4 years (which costs USD 100-150). The money that she saves by not maintaining a car battery system pays for almost 5 months of the loan repayments each year.


Mrs. Sor and her family are enjoying the benefits of a reliable and plentiful supply of electricity. She finds cooking at night time much easier with better lighting and her daughter is able to study for longer once it gets dark. Having more lights in and around the house also helps the family feel safer. The family can access information and entertainment from the TV for 3 to 5 hours a day if they want, which has contributed to making her family happier than they were before. Ultimately, Mrs Sor is looking forward to the day they have paid off the loan and will have a free supply of energy. She is very impressed with the technology and believes that it was a good investment for her family. 


Uncle Khy and his wife using solar water pump for their small scale farm/Photo: PIN Cambodia

Phnom Penh, Cambodia: As Cambodia continues to harness clean energy potential around the country, the European Union has signed two project agreements worth EUR 5.3 Million to promote sustainable consumption and production of energy sources and to put local SMEs on a track of a green recovery in Cambodia. 

Funded by the European Union and Czech Development Agency, the Switch to Solar project will be implemented over a period of 4 years, starting from 2020 – 2024, by People In Need (PIN) and partners Sevea and Energy Lab to contribute to sustainable and inclusive economic growth in rural areas of Cambodia. Approximately 1,140,000 women, men and children across 6 provinces and 15 districts in the Tonle Sap region will benefit from greater economic opportunities at the local level, a more sustainable natural environment, and greater access to environmentally-friendly products and services from target MSMEs (Micro, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises).

“I believe this project will significantly contribute to the economic empowerment and livelihoods of people living in rural areas. Solar energy is currently one of the easiest to implement and fastest growing technologies in the field of renewable energy. With energy being the foundation of everything that is economically viable, there needs to be more focus on developing sustainable forms of energy in order to build a sustainable and functioning economy,” said Jerus D’Silva, PIN’s Program Manager for Economic Empowerment, Green Energy and WASH.

PIN staff checking solar charger/Photo: PIN Cambodia

Key expected results from this project are that business models and technology solutions are designed and promoted; local solar technology providers’ capacities are strengthened; target MSMEs and consumers have improved awareness and access to a range of solar energy devices, financing options and customer services; improved business environment for solar technology solutions and established synergies among main stakeholders.

It should be noted that the action draws on more than 13 years of People In Need’s international experience supporting the development market-based renewable energy (RE) solutions in off-grid areas, including PIN’s 9-year experience with developing Cambodian markets with biogas and solar technologies.

The second EU funded project, “Promotion of sustainable energy practices in the garment sector in Cambodia” will promote clean energy practices – including energy efficiency but also rooftop solar and sustainable fuelwood – in garment manufacturing SMEs. Implemented by the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) together with the NGO Geres and the Garment Manufacturing Association of Cambodia (GMAC) over a four year period, this project will stimulate demand for sustainable energy technologies in garment manufacturing by raising awareness among factories around the strong business case for clean energy. The project will also work with banks and energy service providers to increase the supply of technologies, services and financial solutions for sustainable energy in manufacturing. Finally, the implementing partners will work with Cambodian government to strengthen the regulatory framework for clean energy in manufacturing.

“GGGI’s economic modelling projects that a 20% increase in energy efficiency in the garment sector would lead to an increase of 31% in energy productivity by 2030 and US$ 2 billion of avoided energy costs,” says Karolien Casaer-Diez, GGGI Country Representative in Cambodia. “As such, sustainable energy practices strengthen the competitiveness of Cambodian garment manufacturing. This creates employment opportunities direly needed in one of the sectors hardest hit by the global COVID19 pandemic.

GGGI is an intergovernmental organization that supports developing country governments transition to a model of economic growth that is environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive. GGGI delivers policy and investment advice in over 30 partner countries. In the energy sector, GGGI works with Governments & private partners to transform energy markets, scale-up green investment, and achieve efficient use of energy resources across economic sectors.

“Our support will allow Cambodian SMEs harnessing the potential of green energy for developing agricultural value chains around the Tonle Sap and as well as for the garment sector. I am glad that with these projects the EU contributes to a green economic recovery, including the garment sector, which is hardly hit by the COVID19 pandemic, and rural businesses in provinces around Tonle Sap,” says EU Ambassador Carmen Moreno.

New Volunteer Opportunities

Donating money isn’t the only way to give to charitable organizations, many of whom rely on volunteers for various services. If you find yourself with free time on your hands on your weekend, or during the week, you could consider putting in some community service. Not only will you help a good cause, but it can also be a way to meet people and learn new skills.

Celebrate Microvolunteering Day

You want to get involved and give back to the community, but can’t fit another big commitment into your busy schedule? Then microvolunteering might just be the thing.

Microvolunteering is a small, bite-sized task or project, that is quick and easy to perform. Best of all there’s a range of things you could do online, in as little as 30 minutes. Donating processing time on your computer, signing an online petition, or promoting a charity on social media are all examples of microvolunteering that you could do today.