A Growing Venture Helps Cambodians Get Healthy

November 30, 2017
NOURISH/SNVMr. Nol selling latrine components during a “first 1,000 days” village fair organized by the NOURISH project in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Finding employment opportunities in Cambodia is not easy, especially in rural areas where work is seasonal and the pay is minimal. Entrepreneurs like Kim Nol are changing that.

In 2013, he started a small side business making latrines for his village to generate extra income for his family. A $400 loan from a microfinance institution got him started, and the business grew quickly from there. By the end of his first year, Nol had hired five workers and purchased a truck, concrete molds and tools.

Two years later, Nol connected with a Feed the Future nutrition project that helped him take his business to the next level.

The project provided him with training on latrine component production and business management. He attended workshops on handling construction materials, record keeping, sales tracking and recognizing trends. He participated in meetings with the local government and gained a holistic view of sanitation and nutrition, and the connections between them.

By 2017, Nol had doubled his latrine sales, grown his business to 20 employees, and expanded his clientele beyond his village. He also started to diversify his product portfolio. In addition to selling latrines, Nol began offering Cambodian-made ceramic water filters to his clients, knowing that safe drinking water can help children grow up healthier and stronger.

Nol is now confident speaking in public about the importance of sanitation, its connection to nutrition and its impact on stunting. Customers promote his services by word of mouth.

"A focus on business management, communication techniques and good product quality are key to success,” Nol said. “People going into this business should have a passion for what they do and a social contribution mindset — these two factors are crucial ahead of technical and business skills." 

Nol now shares his business acumen with others. In September 2016, he began managing a business service center started by Feed the Future. Through the center, he’s helping other small sanitation businesses increase their sales and profits. He holds monthly meetings with five local businesses where they discuss market potential and strategies to align with the government’s development priorities. He helps other business owners prepare business plans, comply with government regulations, connect with credit options and strategically diversify their products. 

The business center will soon purchase a brick-making machine to further help members diversify their product offerings and save money by reducing the cost of building materials. They’ll pass the savings on to customers, which enables them to reach more customers in rural areas with affordable sanitation and hygiene options. 

By building their businesses, these Cambodian entrepreneurs are creating jobs in their communities while meeting a critical need for greater sanitation and hygiene that leads to better health and nutrition.

The NOURISH project is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and Feed the Future. It helps Cambodian communities accelerate the reduction of stunting among children by focusing on key causal factors for chronic malnutrition — poverty, limited access to quality food and nutrition services, and unsanitary environments and practices that prevent optimal child growth and development. The project works closely with the private sector to create sustainable solutions that go beyond the life of the project.