Technovation 2020 | Chamkar App Development and Business Plans

Technovation is a global competition that enables teams of girls to ideate a technological solution to a problem in their community they are passionate about solving, develop the application along with business plans to operate their project. 

2020 marks my fourth year and fourth project with Technovation. 

Given the experience I had from previous years, I wanted to create an application that is crucial to Cambodian’s everyday living and can efficiently help them to cope with the problems they truly struggle with. After careful research and discussions with my teammates, we decided to develop an application that will help to combat the issue of toxic usage of pesticides on vegetation by bringing reliable, affordable, and certified organic or safe vegetable shops to our users.  

Therefore, we ideated an application called Chamkar, meaning farm in Khmer, which is an e-shop that allows our partnership shops to sell safe/organic vegetables by posting them. For clients, the shopping process is user-customized and designed for busy&non-expert clients to choose the healthiest vegetables efficiently. Chamkar offers two services (self-pickup & delivery) to fit all customer needs. 

Check out our pitch video. 

Here are some interfaces of the app that we designed. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As an entrepreneurship-enthusiast, I worked on mostly the business planning side of the team. The most remarkable part of this year’s journey is writing the complex business plan document that includes every component of our project’s descriptions, planning, business strategies, and more. It was my very first time writing a business plan; so I got to learn and explore new interesting parts to operating a business. For example, I needed to conduct numerous research on the problem and how it affects the livelihoods of Cambodians, customer profile, competitors and their market size, the number of potential customers and stakeholders and more. After gathering all relevant data and information, we use those to carefully analyze our market size, future expenditure, revenue and profits, and the overall potential of our project. 

Click here to see the full 24-page document of Chamkar’s business plan. 

After finishing our project, we presented a pitch of Chamkar in a National Pitch event and submitted it to the global judges.

We qualified as a semifinalist globally and here is the certificate.  

2020-semifinalist-25823-17995

Overall, I loved this journey just as much as I loved any other technovation projects before this, if not more. It was a unique experience working on a project amidst a pandemic. It taught me a lot of things such as: soft skills including communications (with local organic shops, farmers, users),  collaboration,  flexibility, problem-solving and more, technical and entrepreneurial skills including researching and analyzing data, writing a formal business plan, public speaking and pitching skills, etc.  

Just as any project, it leaves me with new and precious experiences of exploring a brand-new field, talking to different people and experts,  bonding with fellow friends and teammates, and more. 

Thanks to Technovation, I got to improve my entrepreneurship skills and got to develop a solution to help my community while learning numerous new things myself. 

 

 

Health Impacts of Climate Change and Potential Solutions

During the pandemic quarantine, I was given the time and chance to explore topics I am interested in. Climate Change and how it shapes our future is one of the things I seek to explore and study more about. Therefore, I enrolled in an audit online course by Harvard  University on EDx on the health impacts of climate change. It was my first time enrolling in an online course by a university, but the experience was priceless. I could study from the best resources including research papers from experts, visual graphs of interesting data and statistics, the discussion videos of the professors and experts at the field, and many others. Upon finishing the course, I wrote an informative essay, using the knowledge I gained from the course as well as further research, in the hope to raise more awareness about this global emergency and powerful solutions humanity needs to focus on. 

The Health Impacts of the Climate Crisis and Potential Solutions

 

         “Health is the human face of climate change.” said Michelle Williams from the Harvard School of Public Health. Many understand climate change predominantly from only the environmental perspective, leaving out another indispensable effect of the climate crisis: human health. Intense greenhouse gas emissions from anthropogenic sources result in many devastating consequences including sea-level rise and heat rise on land, increased droughts, floods, and extreme weather along with changes in precipitation and more. These unprecedented changes to the environment are triggers to many harmful health risks and diseases that will reverberate globally. The main health risks include those that are caused by heat, air quality, infectious diseases, nutritional diseases and deficiencies, and complications caused by migration.

         Climate Change is a global emergency that threatens the well-being of humanity through its many health impacts, and it depends on our actions to divert this fateful path.

          The first category of health risks induced by the climate crisis is those that are caused by heat, mainly heat strokes and heat exhaustion. The risks vary by different combinations of heat and precipitation levels. The more heat and precipitation, the higher the risks. Here is the heat index and its health risks in each condition. 

Heat Index
Figure courtesy of NOAA and the US National Weather Service.

The most vulnerable populations to heat-related illnesses include outdoor workers, people with heart failures and diabetes, people who are obese, elders, and pre-pubertal children due to their incapability to shed excess heat well.           To further understand how we can reduce heat-related illnesses, we should find it’s main causes. One of the major components that contribute to warming temperatures is the urban heat island — meaning when the temperature in the city region is much higher than the temperature of the rural areas around it. As urbanization increases, so does warming and pollution. Cities are more likely to be hotter than their surroundings due to how they are built with mostly grey asphalt roads and dark roofs (which absorb heat better than white or green surfaces). Actions that are taken to reduce urban heat islands will not only reduce climate change, but will also directly impact many people’s health as well.

Here are the most environmental-friendly cities in Europe
© Travel Daily Media, “Here are the most environmental-friendly cities in Europe” by Kristin Mariano

 One of the most effective ways to decrease heat-related illnesses is to redesign urban environments so they absorb less heat. Some ways are through mandating and encouraging more green buildings and households, planting more trees and vegetations — perhaps through green roofs and hydroponics which are the most efficient methods for urban environments due to small-space requirement and other benefits –, increasing reflective surfaces by using cool roofs, and other energy-efficient appliances and technologies [2]. These alternatives to the conventional infrastructures won’t only help to decrease heat and pollution in the city and increase sustainability and development in cities, but they can also directly benefit the economy, health and well-being of the residents as well. For instance, a report named “The Rise of Green Buildings”[3] from the Economist confirms that “Going green (in buildings) saves money by reducing energy and maintenance costs, and may boost productivity.”

The second component of health impacts caused by the climate crisis is those that are caused by air pollution including Asthma and other chronic respiratory diseases and pollen-allergies. Increased temperature can lead to an increase in ground-level ozone, a highly irritating gas that forms just above the Earth’s surface[4] which can cause inflammation in the airway and damage lung tissue[5]. Furthermore, the increase of carbon dioxide increases pollen output in ragweed plants, which is a big contributor to seasonal allergies,  while also lengthening its pollinating season. Additionally, as climate change increases the severity and frequency of droughts and heatwaves, the conditions that trigger wildfires also increase. Wildfires, without even mentioning the health effects, are destructive phenomena — affecting air, water sources and drinking water quality, while destroying countless precious wildlife species. But if we look even more closely, the smoke of burned fires includes many toxic chemicals that are dangerous for human health, including acrolein (a lung irritant), carbon monoxide (which can be fatal at high concentrations),  formaldehyde, and benzene or PAHs (all of which can cause cancer). According to the World Health Organization, volcanic activities and wildfires affected 6.2 million people and caused 2400 deaths worldwide in the period of 19 years from 1998 to 2017 [6]. These particulate matters, which are “all solid and liquid particles suspended in the air many of which are hazardous that includes dust, liquid droplets, pollen smoke and more”[7], are contributed mostly by combustion of fossil fuels (mostly coal and diesel). The different sectors that contribute to more particulate matter globally include traffic for 25%, industry for 18%, domestic Fuel for 15%, other human sources for 20%, and natural sources for 22%, according to a research paper titled “Contributions to cities’ ambient particulate matter” by Federico  Karagulian and others from Science Direct[8]. 

Because transportation accounts for so much of the pollution, we can all help to reduce our contribution by using transportation very consciously. Using a bike or walking whenever possible won’t only help to reduce your carbon footprint and help to save lives by not polluting the air, but you will also improve your health and reduce your risks of obesity, heart diseases, and more health complications. Moreover, by choosing to carpool or take public transportation, using energy-efficient appliances, and using electricity consciously, you will save your household’s expenses as well as making a difference to this global crisis. 

          Another interesting impact that the climate crisis puts into the pool of its many other dangerous health effects is the increase of infectious diseases. The risks of both waterborne and vector-borne diseases will be increased by pollution and the changes in weather patterns. An example of waterborne risk is the toxic algae bloom which, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the US, is “simple plants that live in the sea and freshwater that grow out of control and produce toxic or harmful effects on people and many marine species” [9].

Harmful algae blooms (HABs) found in 3 New York City parks - CNN
© CNN: “Toxic algae: What you need to look out for 01:13” from Dog-killing toxic algae discovered in 3 New York City parks by Susan Scutti

Although rare, these toxins can cause fatal illnesses including headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, and numbness or tingling if ingested. These toxic algae blooms are triggered by nitrogen from fertilizers and livestock that flow into the water sources, the increase in water temperature, as well as extreme weather events including hurricanes droughts or floods. Despite waterborne illness, climate change also increases the risks of vector-borne diseases, especially malaria. Warmer temperature will be a  sweet spot for mosquitos development until it is too warm and is lethal to them. Because different species of mosquitoes adapt and thrive in different ranges of temperatures, it’s complicated to project the increased risks of malaria. According to an article about Climate Change and Malaria on the UN chronicle, written by S.D Fernando, a professor at the Department of Parasitology at the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka, “Variation in climatic conditions, such as temperature, rainfall patterns, and humidity, has a profound effect on the longevity of the mosquito and the development of malaria parasites in the mosquito and, subsequently, on malaria transmission”[10]. 

Despite the increased risks of both waterborne and vector borne diseases, we can take preemptive actions by reducing the use of toxic pesticides, better managing livestock waste and wetlands, eliminating habitats of malaria-transmitting mosquitoes, and continue other proven strategies to combat these diseases like sleeping in nets. Although climate change is creating a stack of obstacles before us, we still have all of the power and chance to combat these diseases. 

          When we think about climate change, we often do not know that, in addition to the many above health effects, it also will affect crop yields and alter the nutritional composition of our foods as well. This means the climate crisis threatens the world’s food security by decreasing crop yields as well as its essential nutrients.

Poland's corn production plunges | 2018-11-21 | World Grain
© Poland’s corn production plunges | 2018-11-21 | World Grain

As discussed in the above paragraph about air pollution and its contribution to respiratory diseases, more heat produces more ground-level ozone which can also impair plant growth and damage leaves. To illustrate more on this ramification of the climate crisis, an article on the World’s Economic Forum written by Zongbo Shi from the Birmingham University wrote: “Pollution from soot and ozone has caused a major decrease of crop yields in India, with some densely populated states experiencing 50% relative yield losses.” [11]  

This means that crop yields are going to boost if the ground-level ozone is decreased. According to the Harvard Course on Climate Change impacts on health, today, ozone toxicity has been estimated to kill enough crops in India to feed 94 million people. In China, the loss of agricultural productivity costs $250 billion per year which equates to about 20% of total agricultural revenue for the nation. [1] In addition, other threats caused by climate change including heavier downpours that will lead to floods, heat, and droughts as well as sea-level rise and salinization of coastal aquifers are all critical factors that will severely affect agriculture in many places. According to a Nature’s research paper, extreme weather events contributed to about 10% loss of agricultural production globally in 43 years between 1964 and 2007. [12] 

          Besides decreasing crop-yields, more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere also means fewer nutrients on your plate. To enhance your understanding on the relationship between CO2 and nutritions, Kristie Ebi from the center of Health and Global Environment put it best during her TED talk: “that plants, when they have higher carbon dioxide, increase the synthesis of carbohydrates, sugars, and starches, and they decrease the concentrations of protein and critical nutrients. And this is very important for how we think about food security going forward. ” [13]

Kristie Ebi: How climate change could make our food less ...
© TED Talks | How climate change could make our food less nutritious

According to her talk and other studies, climate change decreases the essential nutrients and vitamins including protein (a critical energy provider, immune health bolster and helps to maintain and grow tissues), zinc (critical for the immune system and needed for the sense of smell and taste, leading to lack of appetite if lacked), iron (important for metabolic processes, especially the transport of oxygen in the red blood cells) and the B vitamins (converting food into energy) which will increase deficiencies and associated health risks globally. According to the World Health Organization, 1.4% -1.5% (0.8 million) deaths are attributable to zinc and iron deficiency worldwide. [14]  In addition, “there are about 1 billion people who are zinc-deficient” according to Kristie. 

Furthermore, climate change is also leaving immense effects on fisheries. Anthropogenic impacts on the ocean including overfishing along with the effects of climate change including ocean acidification and the loss of corals are huge menaces to the fisheries industry, leading to shifts of diets to more caloric and highly processed foods for coastal residents [1]. This significant impact of the climate crisis on our very plates is especially concerning, considering how much of the world’s population right now is already facing this immense diet-related problem of starvation, deficiencies as well as obesity.

In order to ensure our food security is stable for the future generation, the world needs to limit, if not prevent, the release of more CO2 in the atmosphere or create technologies to plant crops protected from the emissions of this gas. 

          Lastly, all of the effects of climate change including food insecurity, sea-level rise, salinization, water shortage, and many other extreme weather events are forcing many climate-refugees out of their homes. In some cases, like in the Syrian Civil War, climate change is an underlying factor that can intensify situations and leads to migration.

The Great Climate Migration Has Begun - The New York Times
© Meridith Kohut from New York Times article: “THE GREAT CLIMATE MIGRATION”

These refugees who must move against their will surely face tremendous amounts of hardships and health effects, ranging from mental health issues including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression or anxiety, as well as physical illnesses including deficiencies, and pollution exposure. Moreover, most refugee camps lack access to clean water and basic sanitation which can trigger an array of illnesses. Despite these hardships, climate refugees aren’t considered as refugees defined by the official definition by the UN, depriving them of the privileges other refugees have. 

The most efficient way to reduce climate-refugees is to invest more in climate resilience in vulnerable communities which include small islands in the Pacific and other oceans that are vulnerable including Kiribati, Tuvalu, and others, least developed countries in Africa or Asia, coastal cities and more. 

         A global crisis calls for global actions. In these past several years, more and more people are exposed to more awareness of climate change and how they can act to help prevent further extreme events and mitigate the effects of our pollution. Organizations, private companies, and academic institutions have been joining hands to accelerate research and framework for actions and policies to be adopted in places needed. Different facilities have different responsibilities to complete their roles in this crisis. 

Academic Institutions need to actively educate students on important data and statistics that are needed for actions to take place. Such data includes the causes of climate change and its impacts on the economy, environment, health, and more, as well as proven plans and frameworks for actions that can be taken to reduce them. However, the subjects that students need to know to effectively understand the problems and take action go beyond just climate science. Students also need to learn about psychology, anthropology, and sociology to understand how social and cultural norms along with the way humans think can affect this problem. 

Furthermore, we also need more experts and scientists who research more scientific evidence and create groundbreaking technology to help solve this global problem. To see more studies and research, we need to encourage more investment from governments, organizations, and private corporations in this field. By finding new ways to partner with the public and the private sector (including Google or Facebook), academic institutions can accelerate the movement of knowledge generated within themselves to the rest of society. Without bridging the knowledge, data, and insights from research facilities like universities to other organizations in other sectors, we can’t effectively implement changes in our society.

 Actions should also be focused on the places that contribute most to the problem, especially cities. Cities account for about 2/3 of global energy consumption and 70% of greenhouse gas emissions.

The most densely populated cities the world: Mumbai, India tops list
© USATODAY.com | The most densely populated cities the world: Mumbai, India tops list

To intensify the problem, in 2050, it is estimated that 68% of the people will be living in urban areas. It’s crucial for the government in the cities, especially their leaders, to focus their attention on working to solve climate-related problems for their residents because they are the closest and can see closely the problems that they are suffering from the effects of climate change. 

Another important aspect of climate change action is financial needs and aids. This is when big bank facilities, like the World Bank, need to come to place. The financial need to assist climate change adaptation demands between 30 billion to 300 billion US dollars by 2050. [15] Given this immense financial need, the world bank and wealthy countries can invest more in financial aid for vulnerable countries in need. 

The call for action especially needs to be taken into account in the individual level. 

While these big corporations and governments have huge responsibilities to take care of, we, as individuals and responsible citizens, share this obligation to create a hopeful future for our children and their children. We need to be constantly conscious of the irreversible impacts we leave on this planet and take the responsibility to commit to reducing those impacts. We need to be on the right side of history, and the only way you can do that is to act now and encourage others to do the same. The biggest problem to change is that we believe that others will carry the responsibility to change or that others will save the planet for us. However, do we even have a choice to neglect the responsibility to take action when our planet is in a stage of a crisis? I believe that we don’t have a choice when it comes to an emergency as immense as this global climate crisis. We must educate ourselves, spread awareness, fight for change, and act now before it is too late. Every small action is your choice, and it’s important to understand the worth of those every small contribution you can make.  The fate of the future is on our hands, and how it unfolds depends on how we choose to write it now. 

Bibliography: 

Here is the pdf document of this essay: Health Impacts of Climate Change Essay. 

— 

Creativity is a Solace, Especially in Challenging Times

2020 will be remembered for the COVID-19 pandemic and how it affects the livelihoods of many, mine included. It restricted me from going to school like normal, meeting my friends, expressing and listening to stories and thoughts, and having that comfort of closure and connections. However, this quarantine also has its perks. I love how it can give us time to pursue our passions, experiment with crafts we love, and the chance to explore new things. In challenging times like this, art can be a great inspiration. It allows us to tap into our creativity while helping us to heal by expressing unsaid voices inside ourselves. By sharing these voices with others, we can also inspire and help others heal. Art is powerful, and it depends on us what we do with that power. 

To me, I choose poetry and writing as my medium of expression. Here are two poems of mine that I wrote in Khmer. I  submitted these to a poetry competition in the theme of resilience in the pandemic. The first one was selected as one of the 3 that will be exhibited to the public, and I am so honored to have this power to share what I love to inspire and comfort others. 

This first one is titled  ​ឧបសគ្គនិងសុទិដ្ឋិនិយម (Obstacles and Optimism).  Through this poem, I want to give some sparks of hope and positivity to the readers by encouraging them to be optimistic by emphasizing how optimism can be our weapons in turmoil to combat the challenges it brings to our hearts.  Another important message of this poem is how spreading love and hope to other people have the power to strengthen the resilience of a community and help everyone to stay strong together. 

ធម្មជាតិជីវិតតែងមិនទៀង                          មានព្យុះមានភ្លៀងជាធម្មតា

ជម្ងឺឈឺថ្កាត់គ្រប់សង្ខារ ​​​​​​                                    ទោះទៅទីណាជៀសមិនបាន។ 

ដូចដើមទស្សវត្ស២០ថ្មីនេះ                              គ្រប់ៗប្រទេសទាំងប៉ុន្មាន

រងគ្រោះធំំមួយគេចមិនបាន ​​​​​​                         ប្រុសស្រីគ្រប់ប្រាណរងវេទនា។ 

ជំងឺរាតត្បាតកូរូណា​​​                                           វាយលុកប្រហារយើងគ្រប់គ្នា

មិនអាចជួបមុខប្តូរសន្ទនា ​​​​                            ត្រូវឃ្លាតឆ្ងាយគ្នាដើម្បីសុខ។ 

ប៉ុន្តែអស់មិត្តទាំងឡាយអើយ ​​                         ចូរកុំសោះឡើយបៀមតែទុក្ខ

ចូរក្រោកឈរឡើងហើយសម្រុក ​                     ស៊ូរខ្លាំងវាយលុកនឹងវាវិញ។ 

យើងជួយចម្លងក្តីសង្ឃឹម​​                                 ចែកស្នាមញញឹមកុំទោម្និញ

ចែកក្តីស្រលាញ់ទើបចំណេញ                            យើងគួរបញ្ចេញការគាំទ្រ។ 

ទោះបីគ្រប់យ៉ាងលំបាកពិត                             តែយើងត្រូវគិតរឿងល្អៗ

គិតថាអនាគតនឹងបវរ                                     អ្នកត្រូវបន្តកម្លាំងចិត្ត។

(English Translation)

The nature of life is uncertainty,       

There will be the typical storms and rains,

Diseases and illnesses in every life,     

Wherever we go, we can’t escape them. 

Like the start of this 20s decade,       

Every country in the world,

Suffer from a huge  tragic which we can’t escape from,

Every girl and boy needs to endure this misery. 

The contagious coronavirus, 

Viciously attacks all of us, 

Restricting connection and conversations, 

Needed to be apart to be safe. 

However, all of my friends, 

We do not need to swallow only the pain, 

Let’s stand up and go forth, 

Be strong and resilient to fight back. 

We can pass on hope, 

Share the smiles without hints of sorrow,

We can profit only when we share love, 

We should show support. 

Although everything is truly painful, 

We should think about the positivities, 

Believe that the future will be bright,

We need to continue this hope.  

The second poem talks about how differences in us don’t matter. No matter who you are, you can’t escape from this pandemic. Therefore, we all should help to put a stop to this contagious disease by taking actions and helping each other to continue to be strong no matter what. 

ទោះមានឬក្រ                  ទោះខ្មៅឬស                   សុទ្ធតែដូចគ្នា

ពេលមានជម្ងឺ                   តែងរងវេទនា              ​​វីរុសផ្តន្ទា

                                              គ្រប់គ្នាទាំងអស់។ 

បើដូច្នេះហើយ                   ចូរកុំបណ្តោយ​​​​​​                រីរាឲ្យសោះ

ត្រូវប្រុងប្រយ័ត្ន​                 អនាម័យឥតខ្ចោះ       កុំមានចន្លោះ

                                               ឲ្យវារាតត្បាត។ 

ទាំងយើងទាំងគេ ​​​            ជៀសមិនបានទេ    ត្រូវប្រឹងសម្អាត

កុំធ្វេសប្រហែស               នោះធ្វើឲ្យខាត      ចូរកុំប្រមាថ

                                             អាយុជីវិត។ 

យើងគ្រួសារមួយ            គួរតែលើកស្ទួយ​          ជួយគ្នាមូលមិត្ត

ជួយថែជួយទាំ ​​​               ជួយលើកទឹកចិត្ត       នោះក្តីសុខពិត
​​​                                          នឹងមានដល់យើង។

(English Translation): 

Whether you are rich or poor, black or white, we are all the same. 

When encountered by diseases, we would suffer from this misery. 

The virus punishes all of us. 

If this is so, we shouldn’t be careless. 

Always be cautious and hygienic. 

Leave no space for the virus to spread. 

Us and Others, we all can’t escape from this. 

So we should all try to take action. 

Don’t be careless, that would be a loss. 

Never ever doubt the priceless value of life. 

We are all in this one family, 

We should empower and help one another, 

We should take care of one another, 

We should cheer each other up, 

Only then, we can be truly happy together. 

 

 

The Problematic Production of Chocolate

The unfortunate covid-19 pandemic had forced students, including me, to shift to online learning. In the past months, I have been exploring new topics, researching interesting information and enhancing my knowledge of the world in different themes. One of the themes I have explored is “Production”, which I wrote about the process of making products and researched about various issues in this topic. Chocolate production happened to spark my interest because of its unheard stories and data that are really staggering. 

What Chocolate Companies are doing to fight slavery
Credits to Susannah Henty from Fair trade Blog

Chocolate is a product we enjoy made by the sacrifice of non-fair trade victims which they pour their blood, sweat, and tears to make. Among all of the products that we buy at the end of the supply chain, chocolate is one of the most exploitative of all.  Unlike the delicious final product, the stories behind chocolate production isn’t that sweet and beautiful. While we enjoy eating this amazing snack, the farmers who grow them mostly earn less than 2 dollars a day, which is below the poverty line set by the world bank. Most of us are indirectly supporting slavery, child labor, and forced labor by unknowingly and unconsciously buying products from companies who practice non-fair trade deals to exploit uneducated and unempowered farmers in poor communities.  While there are people who surely have concerns about this tribulation, ignorance from many is inevitable. However, I believe the research and stories behind your delicious chocolate might help you see the injustice behind food production and encourage you to buy more consciously. 

 

Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry

Bitter Sweets | Fortune
Credits to Brian O’keefe, Bitter Sweets from Fortune. PHOTOGRAPHS BY BENJAMIN LOWY

Due to low payment farmers get from unfair-trade companies, child labor, and slavery is a solution for them as it provides low-cost labor. While some children work in this industry because they need to find income for their families which are in poverty, others are tricked by traffickers or sold to them by families in need. Those children are between the ages of 12 and 16. Given the lack of education and the need to find income, these children often continue working in the cocoa farms throughout adulthood, and this cycle of unfair payment and slavery continues. The heavy labor, dangerous tools, unfair treatment and the overall hazardous environment the cocoa industry expose these children to often violate the international labor laws. Similar to child labor, slavery in the chocolate industry is brutal, involving physical violence,  mental abuse, and other immoral treatments. 

Other Obstacles Cocoa Farmers Face

The chocolate and cocoa industry is huge but farmers face a lot of problems in producing them. One of the many challenges farmers face is climate change and pollution, which causes changing weather patterns, soil composition, an increase in water limitation, and more.  According to a research paper written by the  Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering at Michigan State University, Climate change is projected to overall decrease the yields of cereal crop in Africa through shortening growing season length, amplifying water stress and increasing incidence of diseases, pests and weeds outbreaks (Niang et al. 2014). Furthermore,  they need to face diseases and blights which lead to plummeting sales for the cooperation they work for. In Daniel Stolte’s article, “Cocoa, Currency and a Chocolate Crisis, from the Arizona University, ” About 70 percent of the world’s production of cocoa — chocolate’s main ingredient — comes from just six small countries of West Africa, where a blight disease that kills cacao trees is spreading rapidly, causing decline and death in some trees in less than one year after infection occurs. 

Credits to: Arizona University

”On top of that, nearly all of the corporations they sell to are non-fair trade companies that take advantage of their labor and do not pay them fairly for their hardly grown products. 

The reason why most cocoa farmers are treated this way is because of the poverty they are in which drives them to do anything to find an income — whether non-fair trade or not. Due to the lack of support of fair-trade and empowerment, most of the companies they sell to are non-fair, making it extremely hard to make a decent living. To illustrate, let’s look at a shocking statistic that will open your eyes to the world of chocolate production. According to a Fairtrade Foundation video titled “The Story of Chocolate: Unwrapping the Bar”,  “Of the 2 million tons of cocoa produced in Cote D’Ivoire in 2016, only 8% of them are produced on fair trade. ”

Financial need is one of the most basic human needs; and if stifled, would cause an array of problems in the livelihoods of many. The non-fair trade low payment further leads to extremely concerning problems including lack of education for the children, lack of decent health care, clean water, and sanitation, and other essential infrastructures. This ultimately drives the whole community into stunting the whole development of the area. 

Organization Actions to Help 

Fairtrade logo            

To help alleviate their poverty, the fair trade foundation is working hard to help the farmers in South Africa. They help train the farmers so their products can increase and teach them the basic principles of fair trades including the minimum wage of fair trades which acts as a safety net when the market prices go down. Their vision is to see a world in which all producers can enjoy secure and sustainable livelihoods, fulfill their potential, and decide on their future. Not only working with the farmer, but they also work with the government to make the laws fairer. Furthermore, they work hard to spread the awareness of non-fair trade deals to the public so the consumers can make wiser choices when shopping to support the farmers. 

Supporting fair trade doesn’t only help to pay the farmers fairly, but it also helps to enhance environmental sustainability by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving the quality of the soil and water by introducing sustainable agriculture. 

The truth is, the lack of transparency in the chocolate industry makes it hard for consumers to consciously choose from fair trade deals. However, consumers can still take action to help contribute to solving this immense problem. They can seek products that are certified by fairtrade organizations like Fairtrade foundation for example. (For your information, here is the list of fair trade chocolate companies recommended by Fairtrade foundation. ) 

Buying from fair-trade companies doesn’t require any difficulties. By encouraging fair trade, you help workers to have a fair payment while lowering your environmental impacts. So the next time you eat chocolate, make sure you eat those that are produced with love instead of suffering. Help make the chocolate industry sweet and happy again. 

 

Bibliography:

 

Foldscope, a Life-changing Invention of Microscope & bringing it to Cambodian Students.

“Foldscope Cambodia aims to empower socio-economically disadvantaged students by providing more accessibility to the microscopic world so that they realize and aware of their potential to create sustainable impacts in the community.”

When you are sitting in a biology lesson in school, have you ever wondered what the cells would look like because your school lacks thousands of dollars? 

Have you ever gotten sick because of the water you drink because you are unaware of just how much monstrous bacteria there are in that little cup of water?

I guess if you are living in a city and study in a modern school, you haven’t experienced these situations; but many people in rural areas face these problems every single day. 

The lack of scientific equipment such as microscopes limits experimentation, realistic visualizations, engagement, and understanding for the students. Therefore, the students have no inspiration for exploring. This ultimately drives students out of the passionate-zone when it comes to science and biology, leaving them disinterested. 

But today, there is a mindblowing tool called Foldscope which is the light for those students who need a cheap microscopic tool. 

Foldscope Viewing: Directly with your eyes - YouTube
Photo by Foldscope Instruments Youtube Channel

Foldscope is extremely affordable (only 1 dollar to make!), portable and durable. This mini-paper-microscope was invented by Stanford Professor and a Ph.D. student: Many Prakash and Jim Cybulski. 

Foldscope has a magnification of 140x which enables students and explorers to enter a whole new world of microorganisms that they had never even imagined about before. This revolutionary tool has been inspiring more passion for biology and encouraging significant scientific curiosity and exploration in all corners of the globe, especially impoverished and underprivileged communities. 

That is the reason why Cambodia is the perfect place to implement Foldscope, given our lack of technical supplies in standard education systems. Cambodia is still growing in many sectors, especially in education which is a driving sector of our nation’s future. While trying to improve our education system, many people overlook the importance of science. Many students lose interest in this fascination subject day by day because they do not have a chance to get out of the imaginary textbooks and to actually explore the real mind-blowing world of science. 

With the mission to bring back the passion towards science exploration and biology, I am honored to be a part of the Foldscope Cambodia Project which put our best into crafting an engaging and effective workshop to implement Foldscope in different government schools. 

In order to do so, we have created several Foldscope tutorial videos including What is Foldscope, How to assemble and How to prepare sample slides. 

After hours of hard work, we were excited to finally bring our workshop to two government schools in Kompong Thom with the help of the Youthstar organization. 

These two workshops were so impacting to me and other members of the projects just as much as it was to the young students. 

Upon our arrival, many students gathered with curiosity to wait for us. After we introduced ourselves and the project, we could see the fascination in their eyes, and that made me really happy. The workshop continues in smaller groups with a Foldscope Cambodia member as a facilitator.

During the Workshop when students are divided into teams and guided by one Liger Student as a facilitator

This experience that put me in the middle of a group of young students waiting for me to guide, assist, and show them was a new experience. It was completely outside of my comfort zone, which is great. Although I was nervous, excitement precedes. 

While teaching the technical skills of assembling the microscope, preparing the slides, and other scientific knowledge, I tried to encourage soft skills team-work, collaboration, communication as well. I made sure to give a chance to quieter students to speak and give the task to someone who is not as active. After a while, the students understood both the technical concepts as well as the soft skills as well. They helped each other with all of the tasks and were ready to explore with the tiny microscope which they assembled by themselves for the first time! All of them ran out of the classroom with the sample slides in hands and scattered out to scavenger-hunt the samples. A few minutes later, they arrived back with a smile and impressive samples in their hands. Some brought dirty water and some brought all kinds of insects and parts of plants. 

After hunting down these samples, it was time to reveal the secret of these samples. The reaction from the students to the sight of what was under the lense of Foldscope the greatest part.

A student in a primary school in Kompong Thom curiously exploring the view under Foldscope.

They were so fascinated and curious that they couldn’t stop questioning. Not only the students but the teachers in the school were even more surprised by the view inside Foldscope. 

I remembered a child examining an ant she found inside Foldscope and said loudly that it was so big. 

At the end of the workshop, we gathered everyone together for the reflection and conclusion. We asked representatives from each team to present their findings, reactions, thoughts, questions, and future plans after the workshop. That was the most memorable part where we could hear from those students the impact we made. All of them loved using Foldscope to explore the simple everyday nature around them like insects and plants. Furthermore, they asked thought-provoking questions that proved to us the impact Foldscope can make. 

Finally, we congratulate the students for their outstanding performance and expressed our gratitude to the schools by donating 2 sets of Foldscope kits and other educational books as a resource for these curious and bright young kids. 

Liger Students giving the school director two sets of Foldscope and books as a token of appreciation.

Although we met a lot of challenges during implementing the workshop, the result was so beyond-expectation that we would love to see this project grow even more. 

After the Foldscope Cambodia Project, I truly believe that the innovation industry should try to focus more on helping those in need and not just create technology for already-advanced communities.  

As a member, I am so grateful to see curiosity and the will to explore science from those young and underprivileged students and believe we should do more towards helping them to continue learning and exploring. 

What the Classic Novel “Animal Farm” teaches humanity about UTOPIA

Have you ever dreamt of a perfect world without hunger, pain, inequalities, poverty, diseases, pollution, and all of the other critical problems? 

If yes, you are not alone. I always have been dreaming about that so-called “Utopia” where the greatest dreams of humanity are achieved. However, that perfect world turns out to be an evil illusion that lures revolutionaries and great political leaders to establish a society that enslaves their very own citizens in the set of beliefs and ideologies that they believe would create the ultimate perfect society. 

This is the reason why many people believe that Utopia is an ideal that is an inherent/ a natural contradiction. 

Every reward comes with a price. If you want to create that perfect world, what are you willing to sacrifice? And when you put the Utopia and its cost on a scale, which one is heavier? Then, would you still think Utopia is the best world possible? 

In Animal Farm, the classic political allegory written by the famous British author, George Orwell, this idea of political Utopia is being deliberated through a simple satire of an animal group. By using symbolism, George Orwell shows the thought-provoking consequences of political revolutions and totalitarianism.   

Animal Farm” & the Evolution of the Dust Jacket — Studiolo secondari

Animal Farm mainly represents the history of the Russian Revolution, but it also serves as a reminder of human nature’s tyranny and hypocrisy. Through his stories, Orwell condemned how revolutionaries usually turn out to be inferior to those they overthrew and turn out to be hypocrites who practice the very ideologies the revolutions oppose in the first place. 

Given its genre as a political allegory, a strong/an influential use of symbolism can be seen throughout this novel. 

Character Symbolism: 

First of all, the characters symbolize the leaders of the Russian Revolution including Joseph Stalin (represented by Napoleon), Leon Trotsky (represented by Snowball) and  the visionaries who inspire the ideologies of communism which promise to bring equality and justice to the people, Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin (represented by Old Major), and the working people of Russia (represented by other animals on the farm). 

Plot Symbolism: 

Many of the plots also represent the events that took place in the real revolution. For example, in Chapter 4, how the other neighboring farms, which are known to symbolize the European countries, are frightened of the Revolution of the Animal Farm. This is known to be the “Red Terror” that took place soon after the Russian Revolution. Other plots include the expulsion of Snowball, which resembles the Assassination of Leon Trotsky by Joseph Stalin, represented by Napoleon, in a ruthless machination to seize power. 

Other General Symbolism: 

All are equal, but some are more equal then others.

The revolution wanted to abolish any form of inequality and sought to modernize its society with a unifying force of the population. However, these symbols in the story criticize this very core ideology of most revolutionists. 

Take the windmill for example; its literal purpose is to bring a more modern power source that will modernize the farm. It promises a better life, with hot water, endless electricity, fewer work hours and more benefits to the animals.

red and gray windmill on green grass field during daytime
Photo by Kai Dahms on Unsplash

However, if we look into its symbolism, the windmill represents an impossible dream of utopia which is impossible to achieve and comes with a greater cost than the ultimate result. As the animals work so hard like slaves and their lives are getting more painful to build the windmill, it has repeatedly fallen, just like their dreams of a better world. Not only has it fallen, but eventually workers, like Boxer, who are too blind to see their sacrifices for such an impossible dream lost their lives working too hard. 

Morals of the Story: 

This tragic story of Animal Farm tells the dystopian history of many revolutions we have seen. It should guide us away from those dark paths we have chosen in the past and walk more towards what will take us to a compromised greater good of society. 

Beware of the choices you make, and educate yourself of the facts to avoid falling into traps. As seen in the story, the people who are most vulnerable to manipulation are those who are uneducated and forget their very own history. Distinguish what are facts and what is propaganda. 

Most important of all, humanity must value individuality, identity and encourage the freedom of speech from everyone. We must speak and listen. No one should be suppressed of their thoughts and no one should have their fundamental human rights taken away. 

If we want a utopia, it is only possible if we define that world by ourselves and if we value other people’s definitions as well. 

Resource: Somers, Jeffrey. “‘Animal Farm’ Overview.” ThoughtCo, Feb. 11, 2020, thoughtco.com/animal-farm-study-guide-4588320.

Khmer Model United Nations Conference, Empowering Youths

On the 6th and 7th of February 2020, Liger Leadership Academy held a marvelous event which was the Khmer Model United Nations Conference. The vision was to empower Cambodian Formal Language Use. In addition to that, the event was a great example of collaboration between youths to create suitable solutions to the issues our world face today. 

The conference was divided into 5 different committees consisting of 4 general assemblies and one committee of the security council. In each conference, there were two resolutions for the delegates of different nations to debate upon the proper solution. 

I attended the conference as the Delegate of the United States in general assembly 3 which debated upon “The Elimination of Cybercrimes in Social Media. ” and “The Problems of Establishing the One Belt One Road Initiative”.  

To prepare for this conference, I finished two resolutions for the two topics which focused on creating sustainable and equal solutions for all countries in the committee. 

The main challenge for me in this Model United Nation experience was spending time to research, synthesize, and analyze different data to fully understand all of the viewpoints towards a certain problem. For example, The Belt and Road Initiative established by president Xi-Jinping in 2013 was a topic which needs deep research in order for us to understand all of the different political viewpoints. 

Overall, the conference was a really fruitful and collaborative event, empowering individuals to speak up through the perspective of a leader. This really enhances our public speaking, political understanding, and international relations skills as high-school students with no experience in these fields at all. 

It was a huge success when everyone at the conference was given a voice as a youth. Many thoughtful questions were raised, great enough that the real leaders involving the topics should’ve been there and listened. 

My dream is to see this Model United Nations Conference being organized in more schools, especially in government schools. 

Although we are young at age, together, our voices can amplify huge meaningful changes to the world around us. 

 

2019 Annual Youth Talk | Climate Crisis

With a number of youths greater than ever before, our country’s future lies in their hands; and I am proud to be a youth in this generation. I believe that our new perspective towards world issues, our creativity, innovations, ideas, arts, speeches and the energy we give is a great force towards tackling main global issues. Therefore, amplifying the voice of youths is the key to unlocking inspirations and solutions for the future of our generations. 

On the night of December, 21st, 2019, The Annual Youth Talk under the theme of “Creating a Spark”  which focuses on transforming the ways young people “Play, Learn, Build and Share” was held in the Neeson Cripps Academy campus. This great event gave a great voice to youth speakers from 9th to 12th grades to share our experiences, ideas and inspirations to our community. The night rocked with overwhelming energy and motivations from each unique speakers.

Me and Two other speakers from Liger Leadership Academy. Leza (to my left) was talking about how adolescence brains work and adolescence mood. Votey (to my right) was talking about Gender Equity in Cambodia.

Most of the topics were about self-improvement including how to get away from your comfort zones, how to better use technology to learn, and problems in society including gender equality. However, my topic was about “Climate Crisis” which sets a different mood in the audience because it wasn’t about a positive inspiration but rather a negative impact and fate we have caused to the planet.

Here is the story behind why I am so passionate about the Climate Crisis and chose to talk about it: 

All of the speakers at the Annual Youth Talk night

I was introduced to the severity condition of the Earth during the global climate strike day which my school participated in many ways for that day: we didn’t use electricity, we set a zero food waste goal and we all discussed about the topics and made personal pledges. 

After that day, I began researching more and more about this crisis, read many articles, looked at many graphs and facts from NASA and other scientists and looked at anything I can find. 

Later on, I came across a very inspirational TEDxYouth talk about the Climate Crisis under the title of “Why you should become a climate activist” by Luisa Neubauer which immediately stirred up my passion and when I decided to be a Cambodian Climate Activist, too. 

during my presentation on the Climate Crisis

At the Annual Youth Talk, I shared the sciences behind this Crisis, the great environmental effects and the massive extinction that we are going through, and especially how we as earthlings can do to help. 

It was an honor to meet Mr.Scott Neeson who is the founder and operative director of the NCA.

I learned a lot from other speakers and from preparing for this event, and I hope the impact will stay with the audience for a long time.

Sharing My Life-Changing Outdoor Experience

My smile when I got to talk to new people

On the 22nd of November, 2019, I had one of my greatest sharation (presentation event) ever in Liger which I presented about the impact that Outdoor Leadership Program brings to Cambodian youths and to me. The most joyful part was meeting many older students, seeing their smiles, and hearing that they were inspired by the project I was presenting.

Presenting to Inspiring and Supportive teachers from India

Besides the student, I coincidentally met an outdoor trainer which I easily made connections with due to our experience and perspective in the outdoor field. He shared his outdoor experiences in many beautiful landscapes in different countries he went to. His lessons learned from his trekking leadership with many participants he lead helps our program to be better. In addition, I was able to inspire an IT that only works with technology and entrepreneurship to start going outdoors, and take some moments to change the perspectives from technology to nature. 

Sharing my stories and experiences

 “Do you think Humanity is being consumed by technology?”, “What do you think about how our nature is being threatened?” and “Do you think humans are being disconnected from their true homes?” These are the questions I asked audiences to hear from their perspective and get them to open up. I was amazed to see so many great responses and discussions out of the several questions we asked them. 

Asking students questions and challenge them to think

Then, I started telling them the journey of our project:

“It starts from the great success and impact we saw from Liger students, and we thought: Why don’t we begin to spread this success and experience to other students? In my last 14 weeks, I worked in this project that aims to bring the wonderful and life-changing outdoor experiences to students. We carried out two workshops; one in Kampong Cham Province and another one in Happy Chandara which is an all girl school. It was a perfect opportunity for us to empower those women who always fight through this stereotypical society.

My group of female participants in Happy Chandara Workshop which we introduced a new perspective of leadership to
The Whole Excited Crew!

I am sure they are familiar with the concept of “Girls are housewives and indoor workers rather than explorers in the outdoors.” We wanted to fight that stigma together by introducing these girls to our program. After the workshop, they were all enthusiastic to go to the trekking right away. Their smiles, responses to our questions, discussions with each other and especially their spread of ideas with their peers proved our project was making real impacts. We watched them have fun, learn and grow together in just an afternoon of our pre-workshop. I can’t imagine what change it can bring to them after the whole program.” 

“I want to have the workshop and go out trekking, too!” One of the girls from GreenLand said full of energy. I replied telling her that we are going to collaborate with her school, too. She was happy, and I was even more excited to work with them already. I continued with the stories from my most life changing outdoor trip ever that I had just a few days earlier: 

“Wow, I do not know where to begin this great adventure story of mine. It was my absolute most challenging and most outside-of-my-comfort-zone experience which I discovered the true strength of teamwork and the power of determination.

My Girl Team!
The Start of the Adventurous Journey

It leads me to overcoming my fears, walking through obstacles and fighting through the hardest challenges, taking real risks and responsibilities and especially to think and see beyond. It proved the saying: Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations. I can tell you it’s most true when it comes to outdoor.

The great exhaustion, 

the short breaths and pounding hearts, 

the muscle ache, ankle twist, blisters, blood, sweat and tears,

were the only light to self-improvement and growth. 

It leads us to the greatest sceneries, 

Of mountains and valleys,

Of singing birds in their paradise, 

Of  wild animals living in their true homes,

Of families of bees, that chase and stinks us,

Of gnarly bushes of trees that reach out to us,

As we trek, sang, and explore,

Discovering new wonders as we go. ” 

Outdoor Leadership is not just a typical trip; rather a personal experience, an exploration, a discovery that will forever capture our fascination in the deepest part of your soul.

Storytelling | A Vigorous Boy Who Plays

In our storytelling expertise class, we learn how to write a meaningful profile of our friends. My partner was Panharoth, a football player and sports enthusiast. I interviewed him to get him open up about his life, childhood and family,  his passion with football and future goals. Storytelling is not just about telling the stories that we heard, but it is about how can we get deep stories from the people we are writing about. I learned how to use interviewing techniques that can help me, as a writer, connect to Panharoth and get all of his stories for the profile I am writing for him. After getting the stories, I worked on the profile by crafting it into a powerful flow that the reader can easily understand and take away from. Here is the final profile of Panharoth: 

The Vigorous Boy Who Plays Hard

October 2019

“Sports is about making Friendship, not Enemy”

Sopanharoth said, with a wide smile, radiating joy and passion when talking about one of his main inspirations in life. 

On a September morning, Panharoth excitedly shared his experiences and stories about sports, from his childhood until now. As I sat down and began to talk about his experience in sports, enthusiasm and energy from him already proved his great passion for sports and connecting with new people. A sudden rush of energy ran through me seeing him so excited. As I asked him a few questions, his stories began to unfold.

Childhood and the Spark for Sport

We began to talk about his childhood. Panharoth looked up to the ceiling, mind wandering into the good old memories, trying to recall all the childish stories. 

Panharoth did not change much from his childhood. His love for football and outdoor activities arose then, even if he did not notice it, and it only grows with him as he gets older. 

Before sports brought him to his current journey, Panharoth was a little boy who liked to play with toys everyday with his younger brother. As a kid with many friends, he also liked to spend his time outside, sometimes playing games, or at other times, sports. But he said sport wasn’t what he really liked back then, because he was tired and most times were devoted to lessons in school and also from his home-schooling with his mom. He further recalled the adventures he had as a child, with his friends and family, revealing his biggest fear as a child which is spiritual ghost. We shared a grin as he continued the juvenile story of his.  “You know back then, it was so silly. I was really really scared of ghosts.” –all while laughing, I continued jokingly, “are you still afraid now?” “No, no, no,” He replied with a smile. 

Talking about inspiration in his childhood, his mom plays a really big role in his life, inspiring him to be curious as a child and always keep learning. He also got the love of football from his Grandfather, who is a person who has always liked sports like him, too. 

The earliest time he remembered playing football was at his fourth grade in PE class. “It was my very first time, and I got really excited. I met a lot of cool people, made friends, and it inspired me to just continue.” Besides PE, his favorite class back then was Engineering, because he really liked building things, from all types of toys and legos. Panharoth is also very good at math, then and now. “I was also good at math, so I guess it is another one of my favorite class, too.”

Competitions

“Sometimes, you play for the sake of fun times. But sometimes, you need to play for the championship, too. But with Respect, of course”

This is the wisdom of Panharoth when it comes to competitions. Competition is an important part of a footballer’s life, and Panharoth said excitedly that it is really enjoyable and fun to actually play for his passions. 

To prepare for a competition, Panharoth always discusses with his team to come up with smart strategies. His tip to prepare is to sleep well to prepare for the energetic morning. “Just do it!” he said full of power. 

On the morning of the competitions, there were always a mixture of feelings, nervous, afraid, excited. “However, when I am on the field, I just feel the power and I got all excited” Panharoth talked with a smile. 

The Truest Spirits of Football and Sports

During a competition, the key to true championship is strong teamwork and flexibility. “If you see your friend struggle, go and help them. Guide them to the right position.” 

He recalled a time when he got a cramp, and his friend and his competing players hurried to help him up. “When we got injuries, the two competing teams always help each other out.” Isn’t that the truest spirit of football? 

I was curious about how he got so confident during competitions. Panharoth told me “the confidence comes from the love of football”

 Looking Back on the Road

His most memorable competition was at Phnom Penh Crown. Although his team lost by 0, it was his friendliest competition ever. “They were really good at playing football, but they were really kind, too.”  He recalled the opponent team’s kindness with fondness. 

Life Changed. Thanks to Sports. 

For Panharoth, life without sports is not complete, just like a singer without his voice and a drawer without his sights. 

In the future, he wants to have a career which he is not sure of yet, and an ideal life with his family and sports. 

Without football, he wouldn’t have met new people in his life, and wouldn’t be this happy. So thanks to sports, his life changed.