Women entrepreneurs in Cambodia embracing green growth

The cookstove production training provided by UNDP and GERES has allowed Sous Chamroeun to increase her monthly income by almost 50 percent. Photo: Seth Chase

Cooking is essential–and what you cook with, too. In Cambodia, women entrepreneurs are taking up cookstove production, making hundreds of improved cookstoves every month, reducing their wood consumption and increasing their income.

2,400 kilos of wood
Across the world, almost 3 billion people prepare their daily meals over traditional stoves, burning wood, charcoal or dung – because it is the most available and affordable option. An average household cooking with fuelwood will consume 2,400 kilos of wood in a year, often using inefficient stoves. Searching for firewood can take hours per day.

Cheap and efficient stoves
In Cambodia, 95 percent of the population is wholly or partially dependent on traditional fuel. In 2011, as a response to Cambodia’s high deforestation rates and strong dependency on wood, the Forestry Administration of Cambodia with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) launched a project for Sustainable Forest Management. The project promoted increased use of improved cookstoves and established a training centre for production of such stoves in the province Kampang Chhnang.

The centre produces improved cookstoves based on the Neang Kongrey model, which burns with wood and reduces wood consumption by up to 22 percent compared to a traditional stove. The center today makes around 1,000 stoves per month, which are available for US$1–2 each at the local market.


  • Improved cookstoves can reduce fuelwood demand by up to 22 percent
  • Women who engage in cookstove production gain valuable experience in management and business development, and increase their family income
  • Less demand for fuelwood results in less pressure on local forests, an advantage in countries that struggle with deforestation

Successful women
To date, the centre has trained 67 producers of the Neang Kongrey stove. One of them is Sous Chamroeun. Sous is 24 years old and lives with her family who are rice farmers. After attending a cookstove training provided by the project, Sous and her cousin, Kong Saren, started making improved cookstoves in 2012.  Today the stoves give a substantial addition to the monthly income of the family. Depending on how much time they have to spend in the rice fields, Sous and her cousin make from 75 to 250 improved cookstoves per month, which she sells to retailers for 3,000 riel per stove (≈US$0.75). With an average production of 200 stoves per month, she makes a net profit of about 470,000 riel (≈US$115) per month.

“Making cookstoves makes my income more stable as the combination of two different income sources, rice farming and stove making, makes me more flexible and resilient to unexpected events and changes,” says Sous.

“Before, when I made other pottery, I had a monthly income of about 300,000 riel (≈US$73), after the training from the cookstove centre, I have increased my monthly income by more than 50 percent, to about 470,000 riel (≈US$115).”

Long Kong is another rice farmer from Kampang Chhnang who started producing cookstoves in 2012. Now she produces about 150-300 Neang Kongrey stoves per month, and is very happy with her new life as a businesswoman.

“Before, I had no stable income in addition to the farming. I would help other cookstove producers, but the pay was low, and the working hours and demand irregular. Now I am both my own boss and I make more money than I did before, I think I will make cookstove for the rest of my life,” says Long Kong and laughs.

The goal of the UN-initiative Sustainable Energy for All is universal access to modern cooking solutions by 2030. This project contributes to that goal, and UNDP is continuously developing new project proposals to expand access to clean cooking solutions for women and families across the world.

Related link:
Sustainable Forest Management Project in Cambodia

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