New Lamps Generate Light, Bring News to Isolated Village

o’trachakchet village, Siha­noukville municipality – Only 14 km away a modern, paved high­way provides Cambo­dians with an economic lifeline. Day and night, trucks bring goods back and forth along National Route 4 from Phnom Penh to the Siha­noukville port.

But those 14 km are a world away for residents of this impoverished village. With no electricity and only a small, jerry-rigged railway providing transport and a connection to the outside world, O’Trachakchet villagers live precarious, isolated lives.

A simple kerosene lamp could begin to change all that.

On Monday, villagers watched as a match was lit and, three minutes later, a lamp provided sound as well as light. The lamps, engineered by the Belgian firm LU­FO and assembled in China, generate heat that powers a thermal battery and generates the three volts of electricity needed to run an AM/FM radio.

News and information heard on the radio can be used to im­prove villagers’ livelihoods and broaden their views of the outside world.

Villagers in remote areas can learn about events like Cam­bodia’s 1997 factional fighting or last month’s terrorist attacks on the US just minutes after they happen. Most villagers here do not have the money to buy a radio or even to pay for batteries to run the radios, although many villagers already purchase kero­sene and petrol to use with kero­sene-powered lamps.

Six ‘LUFO Light & Listen’ lamps were donated to O’Tra­chak­chet village Monday. The lamps may be able to generate electricity to power small compu­ters in rural villages. The Mass­achusetts Institute of Technology media lab in the US has been conducting tests with the lan­terns. Consultants have estimated it will cost $1.14 billion over the next 30 years to bring power to 70 percent of Cambodia. An Elec­tricite du Cambodge official said earlier this year that the World Bank has contributed $25 million to the government for rural electrification.

Only about 7 percent of the rural population has access to a re­liable electricity supply. An­other 45 percent use less dependable battery-powered electricity.


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