Live & Learn Environmental Education – Grand Challenges Explorations Funding

Live & Learn Environmental Education Receives Grand Challenges Explorations Funding

  • Contact: Rob Hughes, Project Manager & Lead Engineer, Live & Learn Environmental Education Cambodia, and Volunteer with Engineers Without Borders Australia, E:

November 17, 2011, Phnom Penh – Live & Learn Environmental Education announced that it will receive funding through Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative created by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that enables researchers worldwide to test unorthodox ideas that address persistent health and development challenges. Rob Hughes and colleagues, together with the Ministry of Rural Development, will pursue an innovative global health research project, titled “Energy Recovery & Waste Treatment with Floating Biodigesters”.

Grand Challenges Explorations funds scientists and researchers worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges. Mr Hughes’s project is one of 110 Grand Challenges Explorations grants.

“We believe in the power of innovation—that a single bold idea can pioneer solutions to our greatest health and development challenges,” said Chris Wilson, Director of Global Health Discovery for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Grand Challenges Explorations seeks to identify and fund these new ideas wherever they come from, allowing scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs to pursue the kinds of creative ideas and novel approaches that could help to accelerate the end of polio, cure HIV infection or improve sanitation.”

Projects that are receiving funding show promise in tackling priority global health issues where solutions do not yet exist. This includes finding effective methods to eliminate or control infectious diseases such as polio and HIV as well as discovering new sanitation technologies.

To learn more about Grand Challenges Explorations, visit

The project responds to the recommendation of Samdech Techo Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Royal Government of Cambodia, who in the National Forum for Rural Sanitation in November 2007 suggested that improved sanitation should be focused into three different areas – dry, seasonal flooding and difficult circumstance areas.  The project will address the lack of suitable sanitation in floating and flood-prone areas, and develop and test ‘floating’ biodigesters to treat human and animal waste. The aim is convert it to fertilizer and gas for cooking, providing economic opportunities in addition to sanitation improvements. This builds on several years work by Live & Learn Environmental Education, supported by Engineers Without Borders Australia, who have worked closely with floating communities to develop a “floating toilet” that works in the most difficult circumstances. “What we’ve found, is that by rethinking what are the main functions of toilets and working with the community, we’ve been able to design something a lot more appropriate”, said Hong Sodaneath, WASH Project Officer for Live & Learn.

“The floating communities in Cambodia and around the world are some of the most disadvantaged, and previously had no options for affordable toilets that work,” Mr Hughes said. “Sanitation is challenging enough in land-based communities, yet the numbers of people in floating and flood-prone areas are huge, especially in a country like Cambodia. Right now, we’re seeing terrible flooding in Cambodia and Thailand, and many of the standard toilets are failing – they’re just not designed to deal with water”. By working closely with the government and local communities, Live & Learn and Engineers Without Borders Australia aim to make adequate sanitation affordable and available to the many who have not had the opportunity before.

About Grand Challenges Explorations

Grand Challenges Explorations is a US$100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Launched in 2008, Grand Challenge Explorations grants have already been awarded to nearly 500 researchers from over 40 countries.  The grant program is open to anyone from any discipline and from any organization.  The initiative uses an agile, accelerated grant-making process with short, two-page online applications and no preliminary data required.  Initial grants of $100,000 are awarded two times a year. Successful projects have an opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to US$1 million.

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