Innsbruck, 9th December 2019 – We are using this year’s Christmas donation to take the planning of an organic food processing facility for the extraordinary “Smiling Gecko” cluster project in Cambodia to the next level. We are donating the integrated preliminary design and know-how transfer for the ongoing design on the ground as a means of ensuring our support for this sustainable enterprise.
Looking back and looking forwards
In 2012 Hannes Schmid met a girl in the slums – her father had disfigured her with a welding torch and sold her as a beggar. The tragedy of the story, which is far from being an isolated one, inspired the Swiss photo artist to establish Smiling Gecko. He bought a plot of around nine hectares in the north of Phnom Penh in order to establish a new rural livelihood for poor families from the city.
Today around 300 families at Smiling Gecko and in the surrounding area are guaranteed a secure income by organic agriculture on the site, which has grown to around 120 hectares. The overall project is based on four pillars – one of which is the breeding of chickens and pigs in line with state-of-the-art agricultural ideas. Each family receives chicks and piglets from the central stock that it then rears itself. A small proportion of these are consumed by the families while the rest are sold in the capital. The money that they earn enables them to pay the rent on their homes and finance the education of their children in the project’s own school.
Since mid-August, “Smiling Gecko” has also operated two organic farmhouse shops in Phnom Penh. These provide additional sales points and a stable source of income. “The organic meat is very popular in the city. Demand is so good that a professional meat processing facility is required in order to profitably process the sustainably reared chickens, pigs and, later, fish, in line with the latest quality and hygiene standards”, says the ATP architect Georg Lanza. The concept and masterplan for this facility was donated by ATP’s food consultants as part of last year’s Christmas donation. In keeping with the sustainability of this aid, they are accompanying the project further this year in the form of know-how transfer.
Showing responsibility and sharing knowledge
“Our aim is to draw up the integrated preliminary design in cooperation with the local design participants in an intense week-long session”, explains Lanza, who runs the project for ATP with passion and engagement. “The objective is also to pass on the know-how that we are pouring into the plans.” He is convinced that merely physically handing over the plans of the project would not be right. “This is what makes the project so unique. Money alone simply makes the local people dependent. But our support is sustainable because we are also sharing our knowledge”, he says, describing the core objective of the donation.
The simultaneous block seminar should take place in spring 2020 so that the execution design can start in situ. “Ideally, the foundation will have been completed by the time the monsoons start in winter”, says Lanza, referring to the outline timetable according to which the available resources are being assigned. “If everything then goes well the facility could start operating in early 2022.”