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Mrs. Ung Samuth, 57, is the Village Chief of Prey Preal village, in Kliang Meas commune, Bovel district, Battambang province
“Never before did I realize that smoke from cooking is so harmful to our health. I learned that one hour of cooking on wood is equivalent of smoking one cigarette. We need to take action.” said the Village Chief Mrs. Ung Samuth.
Around 3 billion people globally cook on polluting open fires or simple stoves fuelled by kerosene, biomass (wood, animal dung and crop waste) and coal. Wood pollutes the air in kitchen areas, so the cooks, and their children, risk severe respiratory diseases such as pneumonia, tuberculosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Mrs Samuth is married and has four children and two grandchildren. Her husband as a farmer living in another province to look after their corn plantation. She was invited to SNV’s Training of Trainers event in Bevel district to understand better about the consequences of household air pollution using traditional cookstoves, and to further extend her knowledge and bring solutions to her village people.
In Cambodia, there are around 2.5 million families still using traditional cookstoves with solid biomass such as wood, charcoal, and agricultural waste. WHO estimates around 11,000 people in Cambodia died prematurely per year due to household air pollution; poor health condition also increases vulnerability to COVID-19.
Samuth’s family was using the traditional Lao stove with considerable time spend– the hardest part is to collect wood. “I am very busy with my work; yet cooking is taking at least three hours of my time each day. Especially when my husband is living far away; we have fetch wood. Yet, now wood is also rare to find and even harder in the rainy season,” said Samuth.
There are several obstacles that need to be overcome in creating demand by households and move away from traditional cooking to clean cooking. One is awareness; many cooks tell SNV that their family is cooking for generations and never thought of the consequences.
Therefore, SNV offers behavioural change communication in villages in Siem Riep, Battambang, and Kampong Spue, together with the Commune Committee for Women and Children. SNV stimulates the shift to LPG and Electricity as well as advanced wood stoves, which are displayed at the Facebook page @Mekongstove.
“After this training, I decided to buy a clean and safe cookstove even though it is expensive, but my family’s health is a priority. And, I look forward to save time for other tasks and leisure,” said Samuth, adding that although she has financial constraints, she still decided to purchase an advanced biomass cookstove from ACE for USD 115 as it uses less wood and would save some household expenses.