Two distinguished non-governmental organizations, PSE and Geres, embarked on a joint project to protect the Cambodian forests from charcoal-driven deforestation while simultaneously uplifting underserved communities in Phnom Penh.
The project centered around the production and sale of char-briquettes made from renewable biomass residues, such as coconut shells. This innovative approach not only addressed the pressing issue of environmental sustainability but also provided employment opportunities to the
parents of PSE’s students, empowering them to improve their livelihoods.
When the project faced the possibility of closure, Carlo Figà Talamanca, a consultant working for Geres, recognized its potential and stepped in to transform it into a private entity and a social enterprise called Khmer Green Charcoal. In doing so, he successfully preserved the project’s original environmental and social missions, setting the stage for KGC’s remarkable journey.
With unwavering dedication and the invaluable contribution of young industrial engineering students from Italy, including Francesco, the social enterprise began to flourish.
KGC’s exceptional efforts were recognized as it won both the prestigious International Ashden Award and the Energy Globe Award for Cambodia. These accolades validated KGC’s commitment to sustainable practices and highlighted its positive impact on the community and the environment.
Carlo approached Francesco, who had completed his engineering studies and started working as a consultant in Italy. The proposition was simple yet compelling: join him in Cambodia to expand KGC’s business locally and export its technology and know-how to other developing countries. Driven by his passion for sustainable solutions, Francesco eagerly returned to Cambodia, ready to embark on a new chapter of growth and expansion.
As the company’s production capacity surged from 4 tons per month to an impressive 4 tons per day, Carlo envisioned taking KGC’s success beyond Cambodia’s borders. To achieve this vision, they founded OTAGO, a holding company with the explicit mission to “Put an end to charcoal-driven deforestation by offering sustainable biomass solutions and products.” OTAGO aims to replicate KGC’s triumphs in other nations and become a catalyst for positive change on a global scale.
Both OTAGO and KGC have continued to thrive, earning recognition for their outstanding achievements. In 2019, they were honored with the CSR Award from the European Chamber of Commerce, acknowledging their commitment to corporate social responsibility. Additionally, their groundbreaking business plan secured them the prestigious clean energy investment opportunity at the 9th Asia Forum for Climate and Clean Energy Financing in Singapore.
At OTAGO, we remain steadfast in our pursuit of sustainable solutions and the preservation of our planet. Join us on this incredible journey as we work tirelessly to combat deforestation and offer environmentally friendly biomass alternatives. Together, we can create a greener, brighter
future for generations to come.
Carlo Figa Talamanca is a passionate entrepreneur with a background in technology, innovation, and sustainable development. After completing a Master of Science degree with honors, he worked on international technology transfer projects before embarking on a sabbatical to travel the world. In Cambodia, he utilized his engineering skills and management experience as a consultant for international organizations and NGOs.
In 2012, Carlo took over Khmer Green Charcoal (KGC), a pilot project of two NGOs, and grew it into the largest char-briquettes factory in a developing country within six years. In 2018, he founded OTAGO, KGC’s holding company, specializing in solid biomass energy processing and transformation.
Under Carlo’s guidance, OTAGO has successfully reduced deforestation, saving an area equivalent to over 900 football fields and reducing CO2 emissions by more than 30,000 tons. He leads the team, ensuring proper investment implementation and managing relationships with stakeholders.
Carlo envisions OTAGO as a catalyst to end worldwide charcoal-driven deforestation by 2030. With his entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to sustainability, he paves the way for a greener future.
Francesco’s journey intertwines with Khmer Green Charcoal (KGC) and OTAGO, starting in 2013 when he joined KGC as an industrial engineering student. During his internship, Francesco focused on optimizing the production process of coconut char-briquettes, establishing a connection with Carlo Figa Talamanca, the visionary behind KGC.
After returning to Europe, Francesco completed his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Industrial Engineering and Logistics. He honed his consulting skills while working as a Project Manager at Soft Strategy, a management and operations advisory firm.
In 2017, Francesco’s path led him back to Cambodia to assist Carlo in scaling up and internationalizing KGC’s business model. With the formation of OTAGO in 2018, Francesco assumed the role of Chief Operating Officer (COO). As COO, he spearheads OTAGO’s business development by designing and implementing key international projects, including the installation of a char-briquettes production plant in Kiribati.
Francesco’s commitment to OTAGO’s success is evident as he became a partner of OTAGO and CEO of KGC. Francesco’s expertise and dedication contribute to the ongoing growth and sustainability of OTAGO and KGC. His leadership and ability to navigate complex projects are vital in driving the organizations forward on their mission to combat deforestation and offer sustainable biomass alternatives.