The Swiss non-governmental organization Hagar is providing education, work skill training and jobs for poor women, divorcees and street children from remote provinces with its new soya milk factory and urban shelter in Phnom Penh.
Hagar was established in Cambodia in 1994 to provide shelter for homeless and abused single mothers and their children. The shelter offers education, training and basic needs for up to 120 women and 400 children per year. Hagar also operates foster homes for formerly trafficked and abused children and oversees new rural communities where landless mothers and children earn a living for themselves through agriculture.
Hagar's soya milk factory will generate profits for its humanitarian work. The $450,000 in equity financing was provided by the International Finance Corporation (IFC). Hagar built a plant to process locally grown soya beans into ultra high temperature treated (uht) soya milk. Hagar Soya Ltd will expand its current output of 300 liters per day as demand increases. The objective is 12,000 liters per day.
Soeun Narin, production manager of Hagar Soya, said the factory can produce up to 6000 packages (tetrapacks) an hour.
More than 40 Cambodians have been employed by Hagar so far.
The Mekong Project Development Facility (MPDF), an agency of the World Bank specializing in support for the private sector in Southeast Asia, has been helping Hagar since 1999. It conducted a market study that showed great potential for uht soya milk. MPDF also helped Hagar develop the proposal that attracted funding from IFC. The milk is sold throughout Phnom Penh.
"The soya milk is using local raw materials only-the soya bean and sugar, no chemicals," said Narin. "The staff here work eight hours a day, usually for three or four days a week, or a full week if the orders are strong. They do not work on national and international holidays.
"The soya milk has attracted interest from consumers, because the price is cheaper than others, just 500 Riels a package".
World Bank spokesman Rob Wright says the Hagar operation is a model for possible application in other economies where the poor and marginalised are often unable to find employment in the mainstream economy.
Sam San, 57, a widow with five children said: "My life has changed since I started working at the soya factory. I am very happy to work here and I thank Hagar for providing me a job and allowing my children to attend school".
Chin Savuth, 28, a widow from Pursat said: "I came to Phnom Penh in 1994, where I sold vegetables and slept at the market.
"Hagar educated me and provided vocational training. I have worked [here] for two months. Hagar gave me a job and trained me in sewing and literature and now I have a new life.
"When I was at Pursat, we had nothing to eat. After I came to work here I could eat enough and my children could go to school with the support from Hagar. Two of my children are looked after by the Hagar center.
"I'm going to work here forever."