Sustainable Fuel Secures Award

A Cambodian company has secured a top award for its eco efforts to cut deforestation by producing cooking fuels from recycled waste.

Social business, Sustainable Green Fuel Enterprise (SGFE), is celebrating after scooping the prestigious International Ashden Award for Avoiding Deforestation at the Royal Geographical Society in London.

The award recognises the efforts of the project, which was launched in 2008 by environmental NGO Group for the Environment, Renewable energy and Solidarity (GERES) and Pour un Sourire d’Enfant (PSE).

The aim is to provide stable jobs for poor communities PSE works with while offering an alternative to traditional charcoal, helping to preserve Cambodia’s natural resources.

In Cambodia, solid biomass is used in about 84 percent of Cambodian households for cooking. This demand, coupled with a lack in regulations, has driven up deforestation as locals search for wood to fuel their fires.

Charcoal consumption is also predicted to triple during the next two decades with it currently being used by 30 percent of the population in urban areas where wood collecting is impossible.

To tackle these issues, GERES develops alternative cooking fuels and in 2009, SGFE started producing and selling char-briquettes. This offers a higher calorific value, gives off less smoke, produces fewer sparks and burns twice as long as traditional charcoal.

Two years after launching, entrepreneur Carlo Figa Talamanca took over the business and made a profit in less than two years. Today, it is Cambodia’s number one sustainable fuel producer and distributor, supplying more than 100 retailers and restaurants with an average of 40 tonnes per month.

Talamanca, who attended the ceremony with two Cambodian staff, giving them the chance to see Europe for the first time, says, “By winning the Ashden Award, we have demonstrated that through innovation, with some daring and hard work, also small Cambodian businesses like SGFE can make a big difference in the international arena.”