Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Mine machines are an export success

Mine machines are an export success

Mine machines are an export success

mine.jpg
mine.jpg

A large, brightly-colored machine sporting spiked metal wheels and skull-and-crossbones

stickers sits amid the welders and spare parts of a busy workshop in Phnom Penh's

Prek Leap district.

The Tempest, as it is known, is a newly built vegetation clearance machine awaiting

shipment to the Congo to help in demining efforts.

This is the first shipment to Africa of the Cambodian-made machine. The Development

Technology Workshop (DTW), a UK engineering NGO which designed and produced the Tempest,

hopes more will follow.

"I'm very pleased [about the shipment]," says Harold Pearson, DTW's program

manager, "and I hope this will lead to more machines in Africa."

DTW began life in a garden workshop in the UK, and opened in Cambodia in 1998. Six

of its clearance machines are in the field here, with others in Thailand and Bosnia.

Shipments to Mozambique and Angola are also planned.

Pearson says the team faced skepticism when they proposed moving their operation

here.

"Many people said that such a high tech undertaking in a developing country

like Cambodia would not be possible, but we've shown them that anything can be done,"

says Pearson.

"People think that you can't work in a developing country unless you're willing

to sit under a palm tree and construct things with string and bamboo."

The Tempest is a complex piece of engineering. The 2.6-ton remote-controlled machine

is encased in 8 mm thick steel, and can clear 1,000 square meters of vegetation a

day. Its flail pulps vegetation at 1,200rpm and scatters the ultra-fine debris.

The Mines Advisory Group (MAG) has five Tempest machines at work in Cambodia. Soth

Diep, MAG's mechanical coordinator, says deminers feel safer and more confident because

the machines cross the mine fields first. MAG has noticed a marked improvement in

demining efficiency since it acquired the machines two years ago.

"We can respond to community needs because the machine can clear the area quickly

which reduces the danger," says Diep.

Assisting mine clearance is not the only reason for DTW's existence - creating sustainable

jobs and helping develop small scale industry in Cambodia are key initiatives.

"The basic idea is that we develop the projects and hand them over to small

businesses,"says Pearson. "DTW fills the role of the research and development

branch you find in most big businesses."

There are 23 staff working and training with DTW. Among them are ten with disabilities.

Choub Bunthoeun, married with three children, lost his arm in a landmine explosion

in Pailin 15 years ago. He worked on his mother's farm in Prey Veng, but couldn't

earn enough."So I needed other work," he said.

DTW took him on three years ago as a sweeper and general maintenance person. He excelled

and now works as a welder, painter and driller on the Tempest project, and is helping

build the fourteenth machine.

Pearson says the first Tempest machine built in 1998 was "totally unreliable",

but the small team quickly ironed out the faults to produce the far more efficient

T2, which is still in use with the Halo Trust in Cambodia.

DTW is looking to expand into new fields. One new product is a Braille typewriter,

and likely future projects involve agricultural and medical equipment.

"We'd like to go on as we are," says Pearson, "and identify more useful

projects we can get involved in."

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