Chin Ol: providing sustainable energy to Cambodia’s farmers
A young woman from Banteay Meanchey province, Chin Ol has become one of the most prominent figures in promoting sustainable green energy in the Kingdom.
Ol is helping to build a sustainable future for Cambodia, not only in the households use of energy, but also in industries, particularly agriculture.
“I want to strengthen the solar energy sector and provide people with quality products that they can use to develop the family economy as well as invest with high returns,” said Ol.
“Solar in agriculture has a lot of potential to help the sector grow. We could become world leaders and also increase our exports,” she told The Post.
She noticed that farmers in Banteay Meanchey province were restricted by a lack of access to affordable, reliable sources of electricity.
This inspired her to study the field and establish projects which would bring electricity to other remote off-grid areas.
Ol elected to study at the Electrical and Energy Engineering Department of the Institute of Technology of Cambodia (ITC).
After graduating in 2018, she began working with Solar Green Energy (SOGE) social enterprise in the field of renewable energy, specifically solar energy.
Through her work at SOGE, Ol has been able to provide affordable and reliable solar power to over 1100 customers, including small and medium enterprises, and has helped around 1,000 rice farmers’ access solar water pumping services.
SOGE was originally established in 2008, as the Renewable Energy Development Association, to work on solar home systems in five provinces – Kampong Cham, Kampong Thom, Siem Reap, Banteay Meanchey, and Battambang. In late 2013, the association was closed and registered as a social enterprise. It focuses on providing high-quality products, in-house manufacturing, technical support, and after-sales services.
As a social enterprise, SOGE was initially started with personal finance and loans, but has since received grants from various organizations.
“To date, we have received grants from Dutch development agency SNV, MAFF, the UNDP, the EU and several other UN agencies. It took a long time for us to be ready to secure these grants,” said Ol.
Due to its limited financial resources, expansion is difficult for the company. In practice, human resources are also a major challenge, in terms of solar technicians, as well as less-skilled system designers.
“In the free market, we have many competitors, with a wide range of advertising. Some marketing campaigns promote both real and fake products in the market, making it difficult for people to know who to trust,” explained Ol.
“Consumers themselves are also a challenge, as they are concerned about investing in expensive solar panels that may not be immediately profitable,” she added.
Ol is passionate about the potential of solar energy to transform Cambodia’s economy and improve people’s lives.
Her two primary goals are to provide solar systems to middle and high income customers, including companies and factories, as well as small and medium enterprises, and to provide solar water pumping services to the poor farmers who need it the most.
Through her role as a project manager SOGE, Ol said she believes that solar energy has the potential to not only improve people’s lives but also help the country grow and compete on the global stage.
Her objective is to sell solar systems directly to consumers so that they can use them for business as well as to power their homes.
Additionally, Ol said the social enterprise has created a new business by providing water services for agriculture to farmers who cannot make a full investment.
Farmers receive services that create community-based businesses, with daily access to sufficient water from the SOGE social enterprise solar project.
“They only have to pay for the months or seasons they are farming, without having to pay deposits or worry about solar technical issues,” she explained.
“When we provide enough electricity and water for farmers to farm, they can farm for a whole year, or if they grow very little rice, they can do it twice,” she said.
Chin Ol has become an inspiration for young women in Cambodia as she strives to break gender stereotypes and encourage women to pursue their dream careers, even in male-dominated fields such as those related to engineering and environmental conservation.
She hopes to empower other women to follow their passions and make a positive impact on the world.
SOGE is a social enterprise working with People in Need (PIN), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and South Korea’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to install solar-powered water pumps in three drought-prone districts – two in Kampong Thom province and one in Battambang.
The project aims to provide farmers with an affordable and sustainable alternative to diesel-powered pumps.