She speaks not a word of English, but somehow she’d heard her name called and people were prodding her to come down the front, and so she does. Standing in front of at least fifty people – all working in international development – this petite, shy woman sees them clapping their hands and smiling up at her. And why not? She, Vann Tola, a resident of Kampong Chhnang province some 90 kilometers away from the capital Phnom Penh, owns the biggest Improved Cookstove (ICS) production center in the whole of Cambodia.
A producer of GERES’ New Lao Stove –a domestic cookstove with improved grate and insulation designed for better efficiency– for 8 years beginning when she was only 16 years old, Tola’s production center now provides jobs to more than 30 employees – 28 of whom are women – and pays them US$8 a day, way above the daily average wage.
“I started producing NLS stoves in 2006. Then in 2008, I received financial support from the economic pillar of the ICOProDAC (Improved Cookstove Producers and Distributors Association of Cambodia), and that encouraged me to expand. Right away I decided to invest in this bigger production center to double my capacity and staff. Today, we produce about 6,000 improved cookstoves a month and work with 16 different distributors throughout the region, all the way to Phnom Penh.”
For her ability to raise herself – and members of her community – out of abject poverty, Vann Tola was feted at the launching event of GERES’ OUTCOMES Magazine held
on November 25th 2014 at a boutique hotel in Phnom Penh.
Vann Tola’s story is featured on OUTCOMES Magazine, a publication that tells the story of GERES’ Carbon-financed work in Cambodia. Carbon finance had allowed the organization to bring its improved cookstove project to scale (more than 3.5 million units disseminated as of August 2014), and had provided the necessary resource to expand the project into a national biomass energy strategy. Based on meticulous technological research, testing and design, and backed by intensive and extensive research-based knowledge of the Cambodia biomass energy sector, GERES’ Cambodia program currently includes interventions in all critical pieces of the entire biomass energy value chain: starting from the end use (clean domestic cooking technology) and supply chain (Improved Cookstove Producers and Distributors Association), and going all the way back up to fuel (sustainable charcoal and charbriquette production) and fuel source (sustainable forest management).