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.