Clean Cooking Fuels Forest Revitalization
Cambodia has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world, with forested area falling by 4.6 per cent per year from 2010 to 2014, according to government data. Contributors to deforestation include the country’s vibrant and delicious barbecue restaurants and street vendors, which rely on charcoal for cooking fuel.
Otago produces a clean-burning alternative char-briquette, using coconut husks. They make use of a readily available waste product, meaning that production not only avoids cutting down trees but also does not require additional land for agriculture.
The briquettes are popular with Phnom Penh kitchen because they produce very little smoke. Because they are compacted into a standard form factor, kitchens do not need to break briquettes into smaller pieces as they do with wood-derived charcoal, further reducing exposure to smoke and fumes.
Otago hires its employees through a local NGO that helps children from disadvantaged areas with vocational training. Otago hires the children’s parents, providing stable income and benefits, with the condition that they are obliged to send their children to school.
Otago’s Phnom Penh factory currently produces 120 tonnes of charcoal per month. This meets 1.5 per cent of Phnom Penh’s charcoal demand. With ADB Ventures Seed Financing, Otago plans to build a new facility that can produce another 630 tonnes of briquettes every month and employ 120 people. Otago’s growth will drive down demand for traditional charcoal, thus reducing the need to drive more deforestation in Cambodia’s forests, or the forests of neighbouring countries. ADB Ventures funding will also enable Otago to expand distribution to provinces outside Phnom Penh and explore expansion to other Southeast Asia markets, particularly Indonesia.