Pak Nam Village, Pong Ro Commune
Mrs. Chorn Sina and her husband are tobacco farmers in Pak Nam Village, a rural community of just over 1,000 families along Touch River in Pong Ro Commune, Kampong Cham Province, Cambodia. A UNICEF funded Community Water Treatment Plant opened in Pak Nam Village in November, 2014. Before the plant opened, Mrs. Chorn and her husband had to gather firewood from a nearby forest to boil their water.
“Gathering wood to boil water took us several hours every week so we spent less time working on our farm and with our family.” Said Mrs. Chorn. Now Mrs. Chorn and her family of three, including her husband and ten year old daughter, buy four to five bottles of treated water every week. The bottles cost 1,000 Riel each. “We think it’s worth the time savings to buy water instead of boiling water and we tell our friends to do the same.” said Mrs. Chorn.
During the harvest season, Mrs. Chorn’s family plans to buy even more water, about one bottle every day, so that she can provide clean drinking water for their hired labour. Along with buying water for workers, Mrs. Chorn tells her friends and family that the water makes her feel healthier than boiled river or well water.
“We like that we can inspect the water treatment plant at any time,” said Mrs. Chorn, “It makes us feel confident that what we buy is not just untreated well water.”
Inside the Community Water Treatment plant works Mrs. Si Mean, Pong Ro commune’s Community Water Entrepreneur. Covered under a pink plastic sheet are dozens of 20-litre bottles, filled with water that has just been treated.
Mrs. Si keeps detailed handwritten notes on bottle sales every day. Over the three weeks leading up to our visit, Mrs. Si’s notes indicate that she sold an average of 71 bottles of treated water per day and generated about 525 USD in revenue. As with Mrs. Chorn’s family, Community Water Entrepreneur Mrs. Si was also a tobacco farmer before taking on her new role. “We sell about 2,100 20-litre bottles of water every month,” said Mrs. Si, “but I hope that will continue to grow because we can generate four times as much water.”
Indeed, although sales are strong for Mrs. Si, only 15% of families in Paknam Village buy water from the Community Water Treatment Plant today. Commune Chief Mr. Khim Porteang is happy with the sales so far but thinks they could grow. “We think the progress is good so far but I would like if all families bought water from the plant.” said Mr. Khim.
A few of the villagers we talked with do not buy water from the Community Water Treatment Plant. These included a family with a rainwater collection tank, a family with an arsenic-free well near their home and a family which gathers and sells firewood as a business – they already had a large pile of firewood available and said they don’t mind spending extra time gathering wood for themselves.