Experience report by Tom Meier

Dear friends

The photos, as attached, speak volumes. And it is always impressive to see the progress. It feels like a time lapse, projects that were presented on a drawing board 6 months ago are now being implemented.

The school project, in particular, looks incredibly ambitious, but I am convinced that the team will be able to manage it.  Where the piece of land, currently being prepared with heavy equipment for levelling, will be the first school buildings in November. The carpentry team has produced the first prototype, and the wooden profiles have been tested for their resilience and statics. The carpentry work makes an excellent impression. The three young volunteers work with incredible commitment. Training and production, the overcoming of language barriers and the climatic challenges – it is an incredible job, which the three had achieved with their local team.

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I also see great progress in the other areas. The units for the production of vegetables and salads are impressive. The influence of research is showing first results. As an example, the cultivation of salads with light bittering agents, prove to be incredibly resistant to pests and have now been moved from the laboratory to the open plant. These biological products will find buyers. The idea of pre-processed, carved, washed carrots and potatoes is also impressive and likely to be profitable. Of course, under the condition that we can provide the appropriate infrastructure.

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The chicken farm has grown impressively. The chickens thrive excellently with the concepts for the care of the chickens by the Microfarms being constantly checked and adapted. The pig breeding presents itself in an excellent condition – and the product on the plate is of first-class quality.

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The companies are running on high-level production and already generating a substantial economic contribution to the development of the surrounding areas. The numerous bikes parked throughout the day testify the reality of Smiling Gecko as an attractive employer, which has an effect far beyond the original nucleus of the micro agar farms.

After the installation of the modern kitchen and integrated cooling rooms, the restaurant business has achieved a top standard level. But it is not just the infrastructure, the team also works with great effort to meet the high quality requirements and challenges. Annagret, with her incredible experience and seniority, refined the procedures and significantly increased the training standards.

The 24 hours, which I spent at Smiling Gecko might still fill pages, and what I have written would not do justice to the experience. You have to experience it on location; the beautiful new bungalows (AC cooled), the wonderful swimming pool, the yoga shala, where you can receive massages…

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The growth of the different clusters, the networking of the concepts (agricultural – gastronomy – industrial production), or to say it in the words of Hannes, the social artwork grows and becomes a true reality. It is a wonderful laboratory that, with this integrated approach, provides a groundbreaking concept for the development of Cambodia.

How can we ensure sustainability? Annegret, the three carpenters, the support of the Swiss Hotel Management School Lucerne (SHL) show that we need Swiss specialists on the ground to ensure and increase the quality but also to drive further development and innovation. An effective interplay of science (Swiss know-how), local culture and reality forces an intensive exchange on the ground, with not only young but also experienced specialists. People in the Sabbatical, early retirement and regular retirees could provide effective support in the various disciplines. (…)

I have written these impressions without claiming total completeness and I would like to thank Hannes and his crew for this incredible effort.


Thomas R. Meier

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