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Water is Luxury: Perspectives on Socially Inclusive Water and Sanitation Services and Enterprises

Why is clean water still a luxury for communities in Asia? And how is this issue being addressed today by non-profits, social enterprises, and the private sector? Last month, UBS staff in Singapore gathered to hear diverse perspectives on socially inclusive water and sanitation services and enterprises, in an event organised by Lien AID. Featuring a line-up of esteemed panellists from the social enterprise, impact investing, and international water sector, the panel discussion was held in conjunction with Lien AID’s Windows of Hope exhibition. The 2-day exhibition enabled UBS staff to travel virtually to a rural village and experience the impact of Lien AID’s clean water project in the community through immersive video.

The head of corporate communications at UBS, Ms Julie Yeo, made the opening remarks to a full audience, and welcomed them to the panel discussion. Mr Ian Chen, programme manager at Lien AID and the panel moderator, subsequently touched upon the discussion format which involved presentations by the panellists followed by an interactive question and answer session, covering sub-topics such as socio-economic impacts of inclusive water and sanitation services in developing economies, as well as the challenges and future opportunities within the space.

Ms. Rebecca Paranjothy, co-founder of Freedom Cups.

The first speaker, Ms Rebecca Paranjothy, cofounder of Freedom Cups, shared the positive social impact Freedom Cups has made through its socially inclusive enterprise approach towards menstrual hygiene and sanitation. Freedom cups is a social enterprise operating on a buy-1, give-1 model to distribute reusable silicone menstrual cups to women in rural communities.  Rebecca shared that almost a quarter of girls in rural countries drop out of school the moment their first period hits due to a lack of facilities or supplies. With the use of Freedom Cups, women will be able to get through a full month of school or work and not fall behind their male counter parts in terms of education or income.

Mr. Frodo Van Oostveen, Managing Director at The Water Agency.

Mr Frodo Van Oostveen, cofounder and managing director of The Water Agency, a network orchestrator for the international water sector, spoke next and explained the critical importance of collaborative partnerships in developing innovative approaches towards addressing water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) challenges. Frodo emphasised the importance of finding the right flow of collaboration and highlighted the need for governments to implement regulatory frameworks to ensure standards are met; for private companies to step forward with innovative ideas to address water challenges; and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to share local insights and building strong relationships on the ground.

Mr. Robert Kraybill, Managing Director, Portfolio Management at Impact Investment Exchange (IIX) Asia.

Mr Robert Kraybill, managing director of Portfolio Management of Impact Investment Exchange (IIX) Asia, rounded up the panel presentations with insights on the role of impact investing in supporting and accelerating the growth of social enterprises in developing economies. IIX is the home of the world’s first social stock exchange and the world’s largest private placement platform for impact investing. Drawing on his experiences, Robert said that a key challenge for social enterprises is making clean water devices accessible and affordable for rural families that often live on $3 – $6 a day. He shared that a social enterprise in Indonesia was able to resolve clean water challenges with support from IIX by selling water filters to households on credit through the local women entrepreneur network.

During the interactive question and answer session, a wide range of related topics were discussed, such as increasing education on WASH issues, the application of financial engineering to ensure the sustainability of WASH initiatives, and ways in which technology and innovation can enable safe WASH access in developing nations. Insights from the panel forum pointed to the importance of collective effort to overcome complex WASH challenges and dialogue between governments, NGOs, foundations, and the private sector.

More about Lien AID:

Founded in 2006, Lien AID is a Singapore-based international non-profit organisation with the mission to improve the health and well-being of last-mile communities in Asia by enabling sustainable access to clean water and sanitation. Leveraging our ties with local governments, international foundations, and partners, we have successfully mobilised funds, knowledge, and technical skills to deliver water and sanitation interventions across 6 countries in Asia – Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam – in more than 3,000 villages, 80 schools, and 50 health centres. In the process, we have impacted the lives of nearly 1,000,000 people.

Thingyan momentum puts greater focus on Myanmar’s water needs

This Water Festival, amid splashy fun and communal gatherings, Myanmar will welcome not only the Myanmar New Year, but also the beginning of the UN International Decade (2018-2028) for Action – Water for Sustainable Development.

According to UN projections, by 2025, half of the countries across the world will face water stress or outright shortages. By 2050, as many as three out of four people could be affected by water scarcity[1]. The new Decade, in continuation of the ‘Water for Life’ Decade (2005-2015), will focus on sustainable development and integrated management of water resources for the achievement of social, economic and environmental objectives[2].

Resolving water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) challenges in Myanmar, as well as other Asian countries where rural communities are suffering from a lack of access to clean water, is key for Lien AID, whose mission is to improve the health and well-being of last-mile communities in Asia by enabling sustainable access to clean water and sanitation.

Just last week, Lien AID concluded a month-long experiential public exhibition in Singapore titled Windows of Hope. Held in three public locations from March 20 to April 8, the exhibition allowed the public a unique chance to journey into rural Myanmar and Cambodia through virtual reality (VR) technology and physical installations, and see for themselves the region’s water challenges and what is being done to resolve them. The exhibition will continue to be open to companies who wish to host it in their premises.

A participant viewing the virtual reality video during the exhibition at 313@Somerset

Mr. Koh Lian Hock, CEO of Lien AID said: “Through the immersive 360° VR experience in Windows of Hope, we hope that more people will gain a better understanding of the impact of water challenges in our neighbouring countries. It takes collective effort across sectors – from governments to corporations, individuals, non-profits and academia – to solve the problem of sustaining access to clean water for the rural communities.”

In 2016, Lien AID launched a pilot clean water project in Tetma village, Mandalay, which consisted of a gravity-fed piped water system that distributes water from an existing tube well to shared water points in the village. Last year, Lien AID launched another pilot initiative in five villages across three townships in the Ayeyarwady region, enabling an estimated 3,866 villagers to gain improved access to clean water. In addition, the communities were also engaged through workshops on basic rural water management and hygiene, in an effort to raise their capacity and improve the sustainability of the project.

This year, Lien AID will continue to partner with local governments, civil society organisations and communities in Myanmar to improve overall WASH standards in the villages, as well as work on fostering institutional collaborations amongst government and non-government partners to meet the national 2030 WASH goals.

“The challenge often lies in understanding how to adapt solutions for specific locations, socio-political contexts and WASH issues, and ensuring sustainable outcomes. One key success we have achieved in Myanmar would be the strong working relationships that we have forged with our local partners, such as the Department of Rural Development, local civil society organisations and community leaders. These partnerships have enabled us to co-create solutions to enable access to clean water and sanitation for last-mile communities,” added Mr. Koh.

Lien AID first launched Windows of Hope last year, bringing it to various organisations in Singapore – AECOM, Allen & Gledhill, Arup, Asia-Europe Foundation, Credit Suisse, Ernst & Young and Expedia. More information on Windows of Hope can be found at http://www.lienaid.org/windowsofhope.

A version of this press release was published in Myanmar Business Today. 

Get a glimpse into life without clean water at Windows of Hope in the lead-up to World Water Day

Lien AID opens roving VR exhibition to the public for the first time to raise awareness on rural Asia’s water and sanitation crisis

This World Water Day (22 March), step into the shoes of over 200 million people in Asia who lack access to clean water at Windows of Hope, an experiential exhibition organised by Singapore non-profit organisation Lien AID. The roving exhibition aims to raise awareness on the region’s water challenges and what is being done to resolve them, by giving the public a unique chance to journey into Cambodia and Myanmar through virtual reality (VR) technology and physical installations.

Windows of Hope opens today and will be held at the following locations:

Date Time Location
20 – 21 March 2018 10am – 10pm 313@Somerset L1 Atrium
22 – 23 March 2018 8am – 8pm Ocean Financial Centre Open Space
2 – 8 April 2018 10am – 9pm Star Vista B1 Atrium

The VR video featured in Windows of Hope was shot in Preaek Chrey Village, Kandal Province in Cambodia. The villagers in the often-flooded rural area mostly rely on dirty river water or rainwater for drinking, cooking and washing. It is estimated that prior to Lien AID’s intervention, villagers spent on average 25 to 40 minutes preparing water (collecting, filtering, boiling, etc.) before drinking it. The alternative source of clean water was imported bottled water sold by a private company in Vietnam, which costs up to 3,000 Riel/bottle (USD 0.75).

Worker cleaning and disinfecting the bottles inside the water treatment plant at Preaek Chrey commune

To address this challenge, Lien AID has set up a water treatment and bottling plant in Preaek Chrey village that benefits the entire commune. The plant is operated and run by a water entrepreneur selected from local villages through a rigorous evaluation process, and a water management committee comprising local government officials was also formed to regulate the provision of water services. They were subsequently trained in basic rural water management and business skills. 75 such projects have been completed in Cambodia, and this project in Preaek Chrey village alone enabled an estimated 3,624 villagers from 929 households across Preaek Chrey commune to gain better and more affordable access to clean drinking water.

Last year, Lien AID also launched new pilot initiatives across three townships in the Ayeyarwady region in Myanmar, enabling an estimated 3,866 villagers to gain improved access to clean water. In 2018, Lien AID will continue to partner with the local government to empower and equip community leaders to improve overall WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) standards in the villages, as well as work on fostering institutional collaborations amongst government and non-government partners to meet the national 2030 WASH (Water Sanitation and Hygiene) goals.

Globally, more than two billion people drink unsafe water, and over 4.5 billion people do not have safely managed sanitation services, according to a report[1] released in March by the United Nations and World Bank Group. Through Windows of Hope, Lien AID hopes to reach out to a much wider audience and galvanise greater support in solving the root cause of the water and sanitation crisis. Individuals can make a difference simply by sharing about the issue on social media and helping to generate greater awareness of Lien AID’s work. Companies which would like to offer their employees a unique opportunity to experience immersive 360˚ technology and play a part in bringing clean water to rural communities in Asia can also contact ruiyan.yong@lienaid.org for the roving exhibition to visit their offices.

More information on Windows of Hope can be found at http://www.lienaid.org/windowsofhope.

The Jaggery Trader

Ko Hmat Kyi, 46, is a small business owner in Tetma village, located in the Dry Zone of Myanmar. He supports his family through his palm tree and vegetable plantations. To make enough jaggery for trading, he has to climb 30 tall palm trees twice a day using a basic ladder made from two tall bamboos.

The sugary sap is collected using a number of small earthen jars. After that, the liquid is mixed into a large pot, boiled and stirred until it thickens to a paste. The worker would then knead the product into small chunks which hardens after being cooled. Inside the rudimentary kitchen where the jaggery is prepared, the air is hot, dense and sweet.

In the past, Ko Hmat Kyi had no choice but to send his eldest son to fetch water in the day as his time was fully occupied with his jaggery business. To get clean water, his son often had to travel to a neighbouring village and queue for two to three hours to wait for his turn at the tube well or hand pump. This also meant that on days when he went to collect water, he would have to miss school.

Ko Hmat Kyi and his family

Things got better for Ko Hmat Kyi’s family in 2016. In partnership with Myanmar Engineering Society (MES), Lien AID completed a pilot project in Myanmar, enabling villagers in Tetma village to gain better access to clean water via a solar-powered, gravity-fed water distribution system.

Ko Hmat Kyi told us that better access to clean water has not only made life more convenient for his family, but it also led to an improvement in the school grades of his eldest son. He was able to pass his university entrance exams and now studies at a university in the city of Yangon.

Read more about our pilot project in Myanmar here.

When Water Becomes Poison

Kouk Thlork Commune, Takeo Province

Kim was one of the friendliest villagers we encountered. When he heard where we were from, he waved us over to share the space on his wooden platform bed.

Kim is a rice farmer. His father and his grandfather were farmers, as were the generations above them.

Unwilling to let his children be bound by the fate of a rice farmer, Kim worked hard all year planting and harvesting rice. He saved his income to send his children to school. Decades of working barefoot in the rice fields have left his feet gnarly and calloused.

Kim’s hard work paid off. His rice farms grew and he hired men to help him during rice harvest season.

The men he hired worked long and hard hours under the scorching sun. They did not carry water with them as it would hinder their work. When they got thirsty, they scooped water from the river with their hands to drink.

One day, one man started having uncontrollable diarrhea and vomiting. With no hospital in the vicinity, Kim placed the sick man on his rickety wooden boat, and rowed across the border to Vietnam, where he sent him to the nearest hospital.

“I was worried that he was going to die. What was I going to say to his parents?” – Kim

The doctor told them that the vomiting and diarrhea was caused by drinking contaminated water. The man recovered but he could not work for the next four days. Kim and his wife took care of him, cooked for him, and paid his hospital bills.

A boy swims in the heavily polluted river.

“This water is poison! You cannot even bathe in it.” He said as he gestured to the Mekong River.

The river is heavily polluted because farmers use so much pesticide, he told us. At low tide, the exposed riverbed is littered with garbage.

With no clean water source, Kim resorted to buying water from Vietnam, which cost $0.63USD for a 20-litre bottle.

When Community Water Enterprise was set up, he was overjoyed. The bottled water from CWE costs just $0.25USD, less than half the price of the imported bottled water.

Bottles of treated drinking water at the CWE treatment plant in Toul Putrea village.

Life improved after he gained access to affordable clean water. He used the money he saved for his children’s education. He could even afford to buy more cows.

Kim tells me proudly, “I have four cows now. And I have more rice.”

Kim’s wife now lives with one of their children in Phnom Penh. Kim lives and works alone on his farm, sending most of his income to his children whom are still in school.

Kim Ly, with bags of rice inside his home.

“If I could change one thing about the past, I wished that we knew about the water. Our lives would have been better and our children healthier.” – Kim Ly

This project in Kouk Thlork Commune was supported with co-funding from the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation.

The Village Poet

Bothingone Village, Myanmar

At 69, deputy village chief and Water Management Committee (WMC) chairman U San Yee is remarkably agile and energetic for someone his age. Dressed in a traditional Burmese longyi, he cheerfully led the way from the wooden jetty to the village, unbothered by the blazing sun and blistering heat. Beneath our feet, the soil was parched and cracked, and I could feel the heat radiating through the soles of my sandals.

Like many other villages in the south of the Ayeyarwaddy region, Bothingone village experiences an annual dry season of sparse rainfall that lasts for about 5 months. During this time, the only rudimentary rainwater harvesting pond in the village often dries up, leaving villagers with just a handful of hand-dug tube wells and pumps to obtain clean water for consumption. Sometimes, they have to travel to neighbouring village of Sarchet to collect water with jerry cans. It is common for villagers to ration water use during the dry summer months.

The existing pond in Bothingone village, which is the villagers’ main source of clean water. During the dry summer months, this pond sometimes dries up.

Jerry cans used to collect water

One of U San Yee’s grandchildren playing near the jerry cans.

As the chairman of the Water Management Committee, U San Yee was determined to tackle the water challenges and improve the villagers’ access to clean water. Under his leadership, the village made a unified decision to increase the catchment capacity of the existing pond to help tide them through the dry summer months.

Besides being a village leader and water champion, it turns out that U San Yee is also an aspiring writer and poet. Having experienced and survived the devastation of Cyclone Nargis, he decided to use poetry as a means to educate fellow villagers about the importance of protecting water resources and to encourage them to respect nature. As we sat down inside his home, he took out a notebook, and proudly showed us the poem he had penned.

U San Yee’s poem in Burmese.

This is the English version of the poem*:

Climate changes due to the unbalanced ecosystem,

followed by various natural disasters.

Do not regret only when you suffer such disasters.

Preparation with careful consideration,

will lead to peaceful deliverance of such disasters.

A united effort would breed resilience and sustainability.

Practise continuously,

to create a beautiful environment.

With optimism for the future,

by handing down these good practices to our children.

 

Dear fellow citizens,

be prepared and observant of

climate changes due to the unbalanced ecosystem.

With the effects of severe heat

and drought that resembles

A child without a mother, a fish out of water –

troubled and deprived,

Be prepared and observant.

If only to be awaken by a deep regret,

as helplessness leads to further errors and degradation

with lives at stake.

*This is an unofficial translation and provided for reference only.

U San Yee’s support and influence proved to be paramount to the successful implementation of the clean water project in Bothingone village. Earlier this year, rehabilitation works to expand the capacity of the existing village pond began. When completed, this project is expected to enable over 1,000 villagers from 220 households to gain better access to clean water.

Construction to expand the capacity of the existing water catchment pond began earlier this year.

Close to the end of our visit, I asked U San Yee about his hopes and dreams for his grandchildren, as well as his advice for the younger generation. He left us with the following words of wisdom:

“My wishes are very simple. I hope for my grandchildren and great grandchildren to be healthy and educated. I hope they travel out of the village to explore the world outside. For the younger generation, my advice would be to stay healthy, build family unity and practise lifelong learning.”

U San Yee with a few of his grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Some of U San Yee’s grandchildren and great grandchildren.

This project in Bothingone village, Labutta township, Myanmar is implemented as one of Lien AID’s pilot clean water projects in the Ayeyarwaddy region.

Lien AID partners with UNICEF Cambodia to bring affordable clean water to more than 27,000 villagers in Kratie and Kandal Provinces

Lien AID is a Singapore-based international non-profit that is committed to enabling sustainable access to clean water and sanitation for Asia’s rural poor.

Lien AID brings clean water access to more than 27,000 villagers in the provinces of Kandal and Kratie in Cambodia. Rural communities in these provinces face clean water challenges such as the arsenic contamination of groundwater, seasonal flooding and the lack of available clean drinking water sources.

Bottles of treated CWE water at the handover event.

On 24 August 2017, 10 completed Community Water Enterprises (CWEs) were handed over to the respective communes. The 10 clean water projects, co-funded by UNICEF Cambodia, are expected to benefit more than 27,000 people from over 5000 households. With the launch of these 10 CWEs, Lien AID would have implemented 75 CWEs in 12 provinces in Cambodia since 2011, enabling more than 397,000 villagers to gain affordable access to clean drinking water.

Villagers travelling home with their bottles of clean water.

These enterprises utilise a market based approach to provide affordable treated drinking water on a sustainable basis. The communes will own, operate and manage the water treatment and bottling plant through a water entrepreneur and a Water Management Committee (WMC) selected from the local communities. Lien AID will continue to monitor and review the performances of the CWEs for two years after the launch.

Government officials and Lien AID CEO having a taste of the treated drinking water inside the CWE water treatment plant

In a speech, the CEO of Lien AID, Mr. Koh Lian Hock said, “The challenge of sustainable clean water access cannot be solved by a single organisation. With the continuous support of the local government and our partners, we hope to share our knowledge and expertise so that the CWE programme can be replicated and extended to other locations, enabling more rural communities in Cambodia to enjoy sustainable access to clean drinking water.”

Many of the local villagers and water entrepreneurs expressed joy at having access to clean drinking water right in their communes. Water entrepreneur Ms. Eart Sysela Vorn sees the Community Water Enterprise as a new opportunity for her and her family. While a little nervous about picking up new technical knowledge at the age of 60, she is keen to embark on a new journey and explore an alternative source of income to farming.

“There are a lot of families that drink untreated water in my commune. With CWE, I can earn more income for myself and help families that lack access to clean water.” – Ms. Eart Sysela Vorn.

Ms. Loeung Kimlen, a farmer from Svay Chek Village, Kaoh Khnhaer Commune, said that it would be her first time drinking treated clean water. “I usually drink water from the rice farm, lake or the river. If I have the free time, I will boil the water before drinking. When I’m busy, I drink raw water. I am happy to see this Community Water Enterprise in my commune!” – Ms. Loeung Kimlen.

Ms. Loeung Kimlen traveling home with a bottle of clean drinking water

About Lien AID:

Lien AID is an international non-profit organisation committed to enabling sustainable access to clean water and sanitation for Asia’s rural poor. Founded in 2006, Lien AID focuses on community-based approaches in the delivery of multi-year scalable and sustainable WASH programmes. Through partnerships with local governments, civil society organisations and private businesses, Lien AID hopes to provide the impetus for better water governance and a future where clean water access is available to everyone.

About Community Water Enterprise (CWE):

The Community Water Enterprise (CWE) programme applies the principles of a social enterprise model delivered by training selected water entrepreneurs and local governments. The CWE programme is delivered in locations where piped water systems are not feasible and where readily available surface waters are biologically contaminated. Since 2011, Lien AID has implemented 75 CWEs in 12 provinces in Cambodia, enabling more than 397,000 rural villagers in Cambodia with sustainable access to clean drinking water.

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The Last Fall

Wang Bangxian lives in Tiantaishan village in Guizhou province, China. On a rainy day many years ago, she set off on the long and arduous journey home after fetching buckets of clean water from a mountain spring. When full, her buckets weighed as much as she did.

Wang Bangxian demonstrating how she used to fetch water with buckets. The buckets are now used to transport animal feed and fertiliser instead.

She had to make the trip twice a day, rain or shine, in order to fetch enough water for drinking, cooking and washing.

On that fateful day, the rain had made the precipitous, mud-strewn trails even more slippery and dangerous. In a hurry to get home to her infant son, Wang Bangxian tripped and fell, breaking her foot and spilling the water.

“It was so painful that I cried.” – Wang Bangxian

The mountain trails are often muddy and slippery after a heavy rain.

Wang Bangxian recalls being bedridden for weeks after her fall.

She eventually made it home, but for half a month afterwards, Wang Bangxian was bedridden. Her husband had to sacrifice farming time to fetch water for the family. As farmers who depend solely on their crops for income, their livelihood was threatened.

Wang Bangxian and her husband still farms potatoes and sweet potatoes, which are photographed above in their home.

Over time, she was able to get back to her normal routine but her foot still hurts to this day. Rolling up her pants, she showed me a visible raised bump on her foot about the size of a small grape.

The raised bump on Wang Bangxian’s foot shows the site of her injury. With limited access to medical care back then, she used herbs to nurse her foot back to health.

Wang Bangxian was overjoyed when Village Water Management (VWM) programme brought access to clean piped water right to her home. These days, she no longer has to carry heavy loads of water along treacherous mountain roads, and has more time for farming and raising livestock.

This project in Tiantaishan village, Guizhou implemented under the Village Water Management (VWM) programme in China, is co-funded by CITIC Envirotech.

 The Village Water Management (VWM) programme mentors a regionally or nationally available platform of grassroots leaders residing within the community, enabling them to implement clean water projects for the sustenance and development of their communities. The VWM programme is delivered in locations where available water sources are relatively clean but significantly distant from households.

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Empowering rural poor communities in Cambodia, one at a time

The Water Crisis in Cambodia

Cambodia has one of the fastest growing GDPs in Asia, but more than 11.8 million of the population still lack access to a safely managed drinking water source[1], of which 10.4 million live in rural areas. The lack of access to safe water and sanitation services leaves children especially vulnerable to water borne diseases. In Cambodia, diarrhea is second leading cause of death for children under the age of five[2].

The Lien AID Approach – Empowering Local Communities Through a Social Enterprise Model

Since 2011, Singapore NGO Lien AID has been enabling rural poor communities in Cambodia to gain sustainable access to clean drinking water. As of end 2016, Lien AID has enabled more than 350,000 rural poor in Cambodia to gain access to clean drinking water through 64 Community Water Enterprises (CWE) across 11 provinces.

Going beyond the traditional approach of providing funding and infrastructure, the CWE programme developed by Lien AID utilises a social enterprise model that trains and empowers local communities to deliver sustainable clean water services to rural households. Under this programme, Water Entrepreneurs and Water Management Committees are selected from the local villages via a rigorous evaluation process. They are subsequently trained in the operation and maintenance of water treatment and bottling plants, as well as in basic business skills and the management of water services.

Bottles of clean, treated drinking water inside a CWE water treatment plant. 

Partnership with Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) Singapore

Last year, two CWEs that were established with the support of Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) Singapore were handed over to the communities of Ta An and Msar Krang communes. Through these projects, 2,023 households and 10 schools gained sustainable access to clean drinking water.

In late 2016, Singapore volunteers from Nanyang Technological University and Conjunct Consulting conducted a further evaluation study in the two communes to better understand villagers’ perspectives of the CWE initiative.

Stories of Real People Empowered Through Lien AID’s CWE Programme

The CWE programme has not only empowered water entrepreneurs, but it has also changed the lives of many other villagers. Here are some stories of real people whose lives have improved since gaining better and more affordable access to clean water.

Se Hin, a provision shop owner in Anglong Tean village, Takeo province, was able to earn more income after she gained better access to affordable clean water under the CWE programme. “People used to spend twice as much on imported water from Vietnam. Now they have more money to buy snacks and drinks. I have more income to send my children to school.” – Se Hin

Cham Nan, a water entrepreneur from Toul Putrea village, Takeo province was able to leave his job in a food factory and now runs the CWE plant in Toul Putrea village with his wife. For him, clean water means hope for a better future for his growing family.  “Not only am I able to provide for my family, I also learned to run my own business. I think I am more responsible and confident now.” – Cham Nan

Kim Ly, rice farmer, Toul Putrea village, Takeo province. Kim’s life improved after he gained access to affordable clean water. The bottled water from CWE costs less than half the price of the imported bottled water that he used to buy. Kim was able to save more money for his children’s education, and could even afford to buy more cows.  “I have four cows now. And I have more rice.”  – Kim Ly.

For more information on Lien AID’s initiatives and how you can partner with us, please visit lienaid.org/get-involved

A version of this article also appeared in the Khmer Times Singapore National Day Supplement

Burnt, but not broken

Tiantaishan Village, Guizhou Province

Ran Fangqing, 46

Ran Fangqing, 46, lives in a small village deep in the mountains of Guizhou province, China. A fire during his childhood left him partially blind in one eye and half of his face covered in a complex network of scar tissue.

The fire, however, was just the beginning of a string of unfortunate events. Fangqing eventually got married, only to have his wife depart soon after the birth of his only son, leaving him to juggle the roles of both a father and a mother.

Beyond parenting duties, as the only abled-bodied person and sole bread-winner of the household, Fangqing also had to travel daily along treacherous mountain trails to fetch water, cook, wash, provide and care for his aging mother and infant son.

Ran Fangqing’s mother inside their home

Life only got more difficult when his elderly mother became senile. She started to panic whenever Fangqing left the house, and refused to eat whenever he was not around.

As her conditions deteriorated, Fangqing was unable to even leave the house to fetch water. With few other alternative water sources, the family had to sometimes resort to drinking from muddy puddles and ditches.

When we visited, his mother was already incoherent in her speech. The elderly woman had lost all her teeth and her movements appeared to be laboured. She used a pair of bamboo sticks as makeshift crutches to move around the small house. The only coherent words that she uttered when we were there were strange and somewhat morbid – “I do not want to be buried in these clothes”, she said.

For years, Fangqing struggled to fulfill the family’s most basic needs – food and water. A heavy burden was lifted off his shoulders when Lien AID’s Village Water Management programme brought clean water from a mountain spring directly to his home. On the day we visited, he was just about to cook lunch. He washed and prepared the food while keeping a close eye on his mother.

Fangqing washing vegetables using clean piped water right in his home.

Fangqing preparing a meal in the kitchen as his mother wanders about the house using her makeshift crutches.

Having clean water piped directly to his house has not only made life more convenient, but it has also improved the quality of life for Fangqing and his small family. Soon after he gained affordable and convenient access to clean piped water, Fangqing started raising chickens and fish to earn more income. He now maintains a small chicken coop as well as several fishponds in the vicinity of his home.

“In the past, we did not even have enough water to drink. Now, life has gotten better. I have enough water to rear chickens and fish.” Almost all of the extra income that Fangqing earns now goes towards supporting his only son, who will soon graduate from high school in a nearby town.

Fangqing’s chicken coop

Fangqing’s home – the chicken coop is on the right while his fish pond is visible in the background.

Although life is still far from easy, but Fangqing remains hopeful about the future. “My biggest wish is that my son can continue his studies in university.” He told us. “I want him to have a promising future, and lead a better life than I ever did.”

The water storage tank, from which water is now directly piped to the village homes.

This project in Tiantaishan village, Guizhou province, implemented under the Village Water Management programme in China, was co-funded by CITIC Envirotech.

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