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Story by Seng Mollyka | Finance Officer – Operations | Heifer Cambodia
Edited by Prak Somathy | Networking and Resource Mobilization Manager | Heifer Cambodia

The Agricultural Cooperative (AC) of Ponleur Strey is helping start-up businesses in Dak So Sor Village, Battambang City, Cambodia, with training, funds to help start new businesses, and sharing knowledge and skills.

Fifteen of the group’s leaders attended a four-day training course August 20-24, 2012, provided by Heifer Cambodia, on leadership and setting up a new business. According to course participants, more than 20 micro-finance institutions operate in their community. These external institutions have a serious impact on the economy and in households. From day to day, the number of loan assessments keeps expanding. For this reason, the self-help group (SHG) leaders supported the idea of forming an AC to set up small businesses by using their accumulated savings fund as capital.

One of the three executive board members of the AC, 57-year-old Nuon Chamrong, joined the SHG one year ago. He said that setting up a new business in the community required great effort, but that since joining the group he can get a loan from the group and no longer has to borrow money from the outside micro-finance institutions. Moreover, he can exchange ideas with group members on techniques for growing vegetables and plants, as well as other topics that have helped improve his family’s standard of living. He said, “I am really happy to see the AC growing and running smoothly. It can provide employment opportunities to community people, reducing the amount of migration to look for jobs in neighboring countries, through improvement of basic needs and living condition, and encouraging the people to become involved in social work as well.”

Ley Savorn, a 28-year-old woman with a unique personality and plenty of commitment, has been with the group since the Heifer project started. She said, “My life has completely changed since I became involved in the group. My self-confidence has become stronger. I have become more active and get acknowledgement from the community as well as the local authority.”

Savron works weekends and holidays, can work with diverse groups of people in the community, uses her own transport and dedicates her own resources to the group. She tries her best to strive for success. Because of her strong commitment, she was elected as chief of executive board of the AC.

“The group plans to run businesses selling animal feed, fertilizer and horticulture equipment, as well as a rice bank for people in the community. During the initial stage of the businesses, the group has to set up a clear action plan by using the existing accumulated savings fund with more than 7 million riels, or $1,750,” Savorn added.

In early 2011, the Aphivat Strey (AS) organization, in partnership with Heifer Cambodia, initiated the idea to encourage the SHGs to form the AC by seeking technical support from the Provincial Office of Agriculture Extension (POAE) under the Provincial Department of Agriculture (PDA) of Battambang. To speed up the business start-ups, Heifer Cambodia coordinated to have an expert from the POAE to help prepare legal documents and applications for the formation of the AC, in compliance with the decree of the Royal Government of Cambodia. Then, the AS coordinated the submission of the completed documents to the PDA for approval, and registration with recognition from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Author

Heifer International

Heifer International is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization working with communities to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth.