Our Bio-sand Water Filters are Changing Lives

Mrs. Rihampol lives with her husband and child, a five-year-old boy, in extremely poor conditions in a village an hour north of Siem Reap.  Even by rural Siem Reap standards, this is a deprived area of the country.

Our Board member, Justine Auton and Mr. Sor Ratanak, our Field Director for Trailblazer Angkor, stopped in to have a chat with Mrs. Rihampol after seeing a Trailblazer biofilter next to her house. Mrs. Rihampol shyly agreed to talk to Justine.

Mrs. Rihampol is young, maybe 20, and her life experiences have been exclusively in this village. She was born here, did some schooling here and married here. She lives much the same life, in the same state of poverty, that her own mother did. 

In 2016 Laura and Conor Nelson, supporters of Trailblazer from Minnesota, USA, donated a biofilter and their filter ended up with this family. The filter stands in pride of place next to water pump and it is very well cared for.

Justine asked Mrs. Rihampol about the filter, which is shared with a neighbor.

“The water tastes good!” was the much-repeated response. “The water from the pump tastes bad, but after it goes through the filter it tastes so good. Even if the water I put into it is very dirty, it comes out clean.”

Justine asked about the impact the filter had had on the family.

“One month after we started drinking the clean water my little boy stopped being sick and we all stopped having diarrhea. We don’t have a latrine. It was very bad before…. being like that. We use the water for drinking and for cooking.”

How had the family come to have a filter?

“We had got the water pump before and had heard of filters. We asked the Chief to get one. We paid US$3 which took us two weeks to save up.”

Justine asked Mrs. Rihampol what the most important thing was about the filter.

“It tastes so good! I’ve had water from other filters but this one is the best!”

Pictured above is the family home and Mrs. Rihampol proudly showing her filter to Justine.


Trailblazers Agricultural Education Programme Pays Off

Mr. and Mrs. Van Sor and their three children live in a village about an hour outside of Siem Reap. They are farmers and have two hectares of land a little way from their village and have been growing rice and vegetables on it for many years.

The Van Sor family were one of 25 farming families in this area to be part of the agricultural education programme run by Trailblazer.

Our new Board member, Justine Auton, met the family and talked about the impact of the programme with Mr. Yang Chanto, Trailblazers Food Security Manager.

Chanto began by explaining that the first step when working with farmers new to the programme is to assess their land to determine which crops will grow and how best to improve the soil.

The second step is to engage with the local market to find out the crops, and in what amounts and of what quality, are most desirable. The link between the farmer as the producer and the market as the buyer was critical for the economic development of individual farming families Chanto emphasized. 

Chanto described that the programmes success relied on working alongside farmers intensely for a year, teaching them how to maximise their yield of quality produce and nurture their land so they could grow more over time. The ongoing assessment, advice and recommendations tailored to each farmer over the first year was followed up with periodic checking-in and practical advice in the second year.  The Van Sor family have completed the programme and have experienced real benefits from having gone through the programme. 

Mrs. Van Sor told Justine about the impact on her family.

“Our lives are easier, less stressful.” She said. “We now grow better rice and vegetables. We have vegetables to take to the market all year round now. It used to be just one crop.”

Chanto explained that the family’s income had increased about 150% through the changes they had made and there was potential to increase that even more. The family had also diversified and were raising cows to sell for beef. The big shift was that the family had gone from growing food just to feed themselves to being focused on the business of making a sustainable income from supplying the local market.

The family are experiencing the added benefits of having had a well installed by Trailblazer five months ago. The water means they can now manage easily through the dry season with the water being used on the crops, the cows and for the family.

“Our lives are changed,” Mrs. Van Sor told Justine. “Before, we just had a little money and now we have a lot more. We work a lot more and it is good for my husband and our children.”

The Van Sor family is planning ahead and looking to secure a water filter from Trailblazer and buy some adjacent land, so they can increase their production. Participation in the programme has well and truly paid off for the Van Sor family.