Cam­bo­dia so­cial

Cambodian Business Review - - CONTENTS -

Can pol­icy-mak­ers pro­mote both eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment and so­cial cap­i­tal among the poor in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries? To an­swer this ques­tion, the im­pact of a World Bank pro­gram that es­tab­lished self-help groups in Cam­bo­dian vil­lages on house­holds’ eco­nomic wel­fare and so­cial cap­i­tal a World Bank spon­sored pi­lot of a self-help-group pro­gram in Siem Reap, Cam­bo­dia was stud­ied. Self-help groups (SHGs) are “vil­lage-based or­ga­ni­za­tions that fo­cus on build­ing the sav­ings and credit as well as so­cial em­pow­er­ment of their (mostly fe­male) mem­bers” and pro­vide scope for mu­tual, eco­nomic as­sis­tance. SHGs dif­fer from tra­di­tional mi­cro­fi­nance groups in that they rely on no ex­ter­nal fi­nanc­ing. Mem­bers of the SHG pool their own sav­ings and loan it to mem­bers of the group ac­cord­ing to spec­i­fied rules. Self-help groups have been found to ben­e­fit con­sump­tion and as­sets ac­cu­mu­la­tion and im­prove food se­cu­rity, con­sump­tion smooth­ing and sav­ing. They may be used as a com­mit­ment de­vice, or a peer-pres­sure in­stru­ment to in­crease pre­cau­tion­ary sav­ings. Siem Reap, Cam­bo­dia is best known as the lo­ca­tion of Cam­bo­dia’s ma­jes­tic Angkor Wat tem­ple. Over three mil­lion tourists travel to Siem Reap each year to see the tem­ple, and as a re­sult the area around the tem­ple in­clud­ing the town of Siem Reap has ex­pe­ri­enced ex­plo­sive eco­nomic growth. The eco­nomic im­pact of this growth has not ex­tended be­yond a few miles from Angkor Wat how­ever. Jobs in the tourism sec­tor re­quire lit­er­acy and some abil­ity to speak English and as such are un­avail­able to the poor­est mem­bers of Siem Reap province. In a 2008 study, 14 per­cent of Siem Reap province res­i­dents were clas­si­fied as very poor (ID Poor 1) and another 15 per­cent were clas­si­fied as poor (ID Poor 2) de­spite the in­crease in tourism to Angkor Wat tem­ple. Siem Reap province’s ru­ral poverty is read­ily ap­par­ent by ca­sual ob­ser­va­tion a few miles out­side of the Angkor Wat tourist re­gion. To ad­dress this per­sis­tent poverty in the ru­ral ar­eas of Siem Reap, the Cam­bo­dian gov­ern­ment and the World Bank launched LEAP as a pi­lot pro­ject. LEAP was de­signed to meet three broad pro-poor ob­jec­tives. These were cap­tured by the three pro­gram com­po­nents:


3. to build and strengthen SHGs among the poor to serve as in­ter­me­di­aries with the state and with lend­ing in­sti­tu­tions, to pro­vide the poor with bet­ter ac­cess to fi­nance and to forge bet­ter links be­tween poor pro­duc­ers and im­por­tant mar­kets and value chains. The pro­gram hoped that through these ac­tiv­i­ties the vil­lages would ac­cu­mu­late so­cial cap­i­tal which would in turn strengthen vil­lagers’ trust, trust­wor­thi­ness and ca­pac­ity for col­lec­tive ac­tion in pur­su­ing these goals. In­di­vid­ual SHG mem­bers were in­structed on how to in­crease sav­ings and make and ob­tain loans. They also re­ceived in­for­ma­tion on gen­der main­stream­ing and train­ing on agri­cul­tural tech­niques. The SHGs were closely mon­i­tored to en­sure reg­u­lar and well at­tended meet­ings, steady sav­ing and lend­ing, ad­her­ence to in­ter­nal group rules, as well as proper book­keep­ing. All SHGs were of­fi­cially reg­is­tered with the com­mune coun­cil. Each SHG also un­der­went an ex­ten­sive per­for­mance rat­ing and re­ceived over­all per­for­mance scores. As part of the sec­ond com­po­nent, all SHGs opened for­mal bank ac­counts and re­ceived seed grants to kick­start ac­tiv­i­ties. The third com­po­nent in­volved the es­tab­lish­ment of pro­ducer groups, the pro­vi­sion of liveli­hoods train­ing (e. g. home gar­den­ing, chicken-rais­ing), as well as the pro­mo­tion of mar­ket link­age of pro­ducer groups. The LEAP pi­lot, which be­gan in July 2010, led to the fol­low­ing out­puts (see LEAP, 2012): To im­prove the so­cial in­sti­tu­tions of the poor, LEAP cre­ated 100 self-help groups con­tain­ing 1,291 house­hold mem­bers, 99 per­cent of whom were clas­si­fied as poor by the Cam­bo­dian gov­ern­ment and 90 per­cent of whom were women. To en­cour­age sav­ings and ac­cess to credit all 100 SHGs had bank ac­counts at ma­jor com­mer­cial banks.


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