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

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

Lien AID launches #waterisluxury campaign

Singapore is a city of luxury that plays host to lavish social life and many designer brands. But there’s one home-grown luxury that few talk about: access to clean water.

Last month, Lien AID launched a pop-up luxury water bar in the city and invited hundreds of guests inside for an exclusive taste of Ô – the most expensive water in Asia priced at SGD $1,260 a bottle.

People flocked in for a free taste of Asia’s most expensive water – which is pH balanced, rejuvenating, hydrating and most of all, very refreshing.

Then, they realised that the luxury water was not quite what it seemed.

Eau does not actually exist.

Inside each bottle is 100% clean water, which is readily available to us here. But in our neighbouring countries, clean water can be up to 1,260 times less affordable than in Singapore.

For millions of Asia’s rural poor, water is luxury.

But it shouldn’t be.

More than 200 million rural poor in Asia still lack access to clean water. Lien AID is an international non-profit committed to enabling sustainable clean water access for Asia’s rural poor. Watch the full video below and learn more about how you can help at

For the latest updates on Lien AID, connect with us on our Facebook page.

Adopt a village for CSR

As Lien AID continues to engage corporates in different ways to achieve their corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities, it appears clear that there is a growing trend of the private sector engaging with the non-profit space, not just passively donating valuable resources but also by donating valuable skills through the active participation of their employees in these activities. Every company is different, and while the end-goal is the same (improving access to clean water for poor rural communities), it is our approach to work very closely with a company’s management, to build a CSR programme that is equally beneficial for its own CSR objectives.

In 2012, we were approached by BASF – The Chemical Company, interested to partner with us on a sustainable water project as part of a new BASF management trainee program in South East Asia . In order to provide employee engagement and development opportunities beyond corporate training, the new management trainees actively worked alongside Lien AID staff at all stages of the project cycle (needs assessment, project implementation, post project sustainability assessment) over a course of 6 months to develop a Lien AID designed community-based water social enterprise (CWE) at a small Cambodian floating village, in need of an improved access to clean, affordable drinking water. In addition, a health and hygiene training for school children was introduced by BASF’s management trainees.

In March 2013, Kampong Uor Village with a population of 620, celebrated the official launch of the first CWE in their community.

We are excited to continue on this journey working with more corporates to form more water alliances that bring clean water to more poor rural communities in Asia. Below is a clip of  the FM93.8 Live Interview with Mr Dean Draper, Managing Director ASEAN Sub-region, BASF South East Asia Pte Ltd.


Lien AID scales up Programmes and collaborations to double direct beneficiary count in 2014

Lien AID, aims to help more than 200,000 direct beneficiaries in rural Cambodia, China and Vietnam gain access to water and sanitation by the end of this year, doubling the direct beneficiary count from 2013.

Securing four new collaborations with the UN children’s agency, UNICEF, international NGOs such as the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, as well as corporations such as environmental engineering company, United Envirotech, further strengthens Lien AID’s mission to expand its programmes in scale and locations in order to alleviate health issues surrounding the lack of access to clean water and sanitation.

“We are excited to be inking new and strong partnerships with international foundations and corporations who believe in our vision to help improve access to water and sanitation – the very basics of wellbeing – to poor communities in the region,” said Koh Lian Hock, CEO of Lien AID.

“Having new partners onboard would mean that we are able to synergize the strengths of our partners who come from various sectors including global development partners, private corporations, governments and NGOs, and we are able to deploy solutions to those in need in a more cost and time effective manner,” added Koh.

To find out more, please take a look at What We Do.

Lien AID and BBR Holdings hand over three Cambodian CWEs to their communities


In mid-March, Lien AID and a local public-listed engineering and construction firm BBR Holdings (Singapore) Limited, officially handed over three Community Water Enterprises (CWEs) and water treatment systems to the communes of Koah Dach, Peam Raing, and Kport Ateav in the Kandal province, Cambodia.

Identified by the Ministry of Rural Development (MRD) as one of seven provinces in Cambodia with the highest arsenic levels in the primary water source of ground water, Kandal has areas that are still in need of a sustainable source of safe drinking water.


In their first Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme, BBR Holdings partnered Lien AID in 2013 to develop a CWE at Koah Dach commune in Cambodia, and kindly donated US$30,000 to fund this project.



In addition to the CWE project, BBR Holding’s CSR outreach team, BBR CAREs, further donated sports equipment and learning aid tools to the nearby Ronas Primary School, and carried out oral hygiene lessons with the students, and played sports and games with them.

To find out more about how you can partner with us, take a look at our Get Involved page, or drop us a note.

Lien AID celebrates World Water Day 2014


This month, Lien AID celebrated World Water Day on a few occasions in Singapore and Cambodia.

Ahead of its official international date of March 22, we participated in a Singapore-wide World Water Day celebration organized by PUB on March 15, marking our second year of involvement.

Through the use of an interactive touchscreen display at our booth at the Marina Barrage, we were able to raise awareness of water issues faced by rural communities, and advocate the need to address their lack of access to clean drinking water.


On March 21, Lien AID representatives presented a ‘Lunch and Learn’ talk to HEINEKEN Asia Pacific employees in Singapore, highlighting water issues, our sustainable water projects in the region. Lien AID also co-facilitated an interesting hands-on activity. HEINEKEN Asia Pacific employees each got the chance to build a simple water purification device that demonstrated how dirty water is filtered through various stages (sand, gravel, active carbon etc) to obtain clean water.

Protecting water resources is one of the four focus areas of HEINEKEN Asia Pacific’s sustainability strategy, ‘Brewing a Better Future’. Their water efforts include reducing water consumption in their breweries, balancing water demand, and waste water management.


That same day, we also participated in World Water Day celebrations in the Kampong Speu province of Cambodia. As part of the festivities, government officials, commune councils, schools, NGOs and the community were present to partake in various activities.

These include speeches by government officials and commune councils on water management and the importance of drinking clean water, an entertaining comedy show by Charb Chein team and students on health and its relationship with safe drinking water, a gift presentation to students for a community water painting initiative, and exhibition booths managed by NGOs and the Provincial Department of Rural Development (PDRD).

BASF and Lien AID implement social enterprise for floating village on Tonle Sap lake in Cambodia

BASF, the world’s leading chemical company, together with Lien AID, a non-profit organization with a strong track record in implementing sustainable water infrastructure projects for poor rural villages, celebrated the successful launch of a community-owned water treatment plant project in Kampong Chhnang Province, Cambodia. The project aims to improve the access to affordable clean water for 620 villagers residing on the Tonle Sap river.

In this unique partnership, Lien AID, which has already established 18 successful community water enterprises across 29 villages in two provinces, will provide project mentoring based on their strong experience. Five BASF management trainees are acting as “business consultants” for the project, contributing innovative ideas and at the same time gaining hands-on social interaction experience through their involvement from needs assessment to project implementation.

Mr Dean Draper, Managing Director, ASEAN Sub-region, BASF South East Asia Pte Ltd, said, “By 2050, more than nine billion people will live on this planet. While the planet’s resources are finite, this will pose huge challenges. BASF sees innovations powered by chemistry as enabler in addressing the challenges in resources, environment and climate – in this case, access to clean water – becoming increasingly important.

A joint initiative between Lien AID and BASF, the project is a platform for the company to develop and implement a water-treatment infrastructure in Kampong Chhnang Province for some 100 households. It adopts a social enterprise model – following the successful launch, a chosen “water entrepreneur” from the village will take over and operate the plant, providing affordable, safe drinking water to the community which lives entirely on the Ton Le Sap Lake. Currently, about 53% of the inhabitants fall sick more than once a month from water borne diseases.

The project was developed as part of a larger existing programme by Lien AID, “The Gift of Water for Floating Communities and Communities on the Floodplains and on Land”. BASF is the first company that Lien AID has partnered with for this programme.

The programme takes a holistic approach that not only addresses the specific needs of the beneficiaries but also lays the foundation for long-term benefits for the communities including community ownership and a gradual change in hygiene behaviors.” said Draper.

“The programme continues to yield positive outcomes, with Lien AID’s first pilot community water enterprise launched in 2010 still benefiting the community. We chose to work with BASF for this particular site as we are impressed by how sustainability is part of the company’s corporate purpose, and the efforts BASF puts into employee development,” commented Mr Koh Lian Hock, Chief Executive Officer, Lien AID.

For BASF, this sustainability project also has an important employee development element under the “Grow ASEAN Graduate Development Program” which was launched in July 2012. Targeting young graduates from different disciplines throughout ASEAN, the 18-month programme aims to identify, develop and retain a diverse group of talents to support the future growth of BASF. The first run saw the recruitment of five trainees from Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

“Taking part in such an initiative enables our young colleagues to collaborate across borders as well as provides them with a more holistic personal and career development opportunity”, said Draper. “This project for water is one of the many ways how BASF contributes to conserving resources, ensuring healthy food and nutrition and improving people’s quality of life.”

To learn more about our programmes, take a look at Implement Sustainable Programmes.

Rural township home to dinosaur fossils now equipped with inaugural permanent water facilities

A township in mountainous rural China that became a major tourist attraction after archaeologists found dinosaur fossils there recently came into the international spotlight again but this time, not because of its archaeological past but instead its now promising future.

Till last year, the community within the Chuxiong Prefecture in the Dinosaur Valley Township lived without a permanent drinking water facility in the village. While there is a natural spring that flows through the village, this water is contaminated by animal manure and waste materials. In order to obtain relatively unpolluted water from upstream, villagers need to spend considerable time and effort to collect water manually from the main source of the spring, which is at a distance of 1,150 meters away in the surrounding hills. Many resorted to harvesting rainwater, which was especially inconsistent during the annual drought. A primary school in the village also had insufficient facilities to store water for its students. Wastewater from the school kitchen, teachers shower room and other washing points flowed freely, untreated. School toilets were also inadequate.

Last year, a collaboration between Green Cross International and Lien AID installed the first permanent water facilities at the village, bringing an improved access to clean water to the community. Two new suitable spring water sources were discovered through extensive research and evaluation. Water storage tanks were subsequently constructed, and a water distribution network set-up, piping water into homes and the school. Shower facilities with solar heaters as well as eco-toilets (with handwashing facilities) were also built in the school. Additionally, health and hygiene training was conducted to facilitate behavioural change.

The project is estimated to have benefited 442 people in the village.