First solar tuk-tuk helps women get off dumps

The Aziza’s Coffee solar-powered cart.
The Aziza’s Coffee solar-powered cart. Eli Meixler

First solar tuk-tuk helps women get off dumps

Cambodia’s first solar-powered tuk-tuk has hit the streets of Phnom Penh.

NGO Aziza’s Place last month started using the vehicle – which was manufactured in Cambodia by Australian company Star 8 – as a coffee cart, employing women who used to work on hazardous rubbish dumps.

The sky blue Aziza’s Coffee cart can be found in Tuol Tom Poung on Street 155, between streets 454 and 456, offering iced coffee and tea, banana bread, tasty banana leaf noodle salad and refreshing ginger and lime juice.

“Our choice was to pay more up front and virtually nothing afterwards and take an opportunity to be creative and green, or pay less up front and be faced with further running costs and look like all the other coffee tuk-tuks, which pump carbon emissions into an already polluted city,” said Aziza’s Place spokeswoman Aimee Cheung.

Coffee cart worker Win Soeun.
Coffee cart worker Win Soeun. Eli Meixler

The tuk-tuk’s solar panels sit on top of the roof and charge five lead-acid batteries. It takes six to eight hours to fully charge the batteries, and the tuk-tuk can do about 80 kilometres to 100 kilometres depending on the load.

A single tuk-tuk employs three women, with two serving customers from the vehicle and one working in the kitchen. On average, each employee should make about $200 per month.

One of the employees is single mother of five Win Soeun, 40, who used to collect recycling on a dump site and often didn’t have enough money to feed her family.

“I’ve got a better job now. I’m so happy; I’m so proud of myself,” she said.

Not only is Aziza’s Coffee powered by the sun, but the cart also uses paper instead of plastic cups and offers a 500 riel discount in exchange for plastic bottles and aluminium cans to be recycled.

Eventually, Aziza’s Place hopes to expand the number of solar-powered coffee carts to employ even more women. The goal was to have a micro-franchising model where employees owned their own Aziza’s Coffee franchise, Cheung said.

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