Mrs. Hai Marly, who lives in Phumkrom village in Preah Rumkel commune in Stung Treng province, comes from a poor family whose livelihood relied on a small piece of land for the production of rice. The crop could not support her family of four. In 2010 she therefore joined a self help group (SHG) with 81 members, among them 54 women. By 2011 her SHG had saved 74,500,000 Riel (USD 18,600), and provided 85 loans to its members. “I started a micro-enterprise with the support of my SHG”, Marly says, “I borrowed 2,000,000 Riel (about USD 500) for pig raising and home gardening”.
In total she spent 2,800,000 Riel (USD 700) for buying 9 piglets, a pigpen, and pig feed. In 2011, the pigs were not sold to the market yet, but were growing well. According to her business plan, Marly expects to get a return of around 5,760,000 Riel, equal to USD 1,440. “I feel qualified to raise pigs, because I used to successfully raise pigs when I was young”, she tells us confidently and adds: “Besides, the Empowerment of Small Scale Farmers (ESSF) project of Mlup Baitong provided me with training on pig raising and writing a micro business plan, which helped me a lot”.
Marly additionally started to plant vegetables (water spinach, leek, and beans) for family consumption. Our ESSF project provided her with a training course on home gardening. She does not use chemical fertilizers or pesticides, instead she is using pig dung to fertilize the soil. The surplus which is not needed by her family she is selling to neighbors and at the local market for about 180,000 Riel (USD 45) per month. She is using this extra income for daily necessities and to pay for her son to attend grade 12 at Upper Secondary School in Stung Treng provincial town about 60 km from home.
When asking SHG members about trends created by the establishment of SHGs, they answer:
- A significant increase in the volume of borrowing when people join Self Help Groups;
- A dramatic decrease in the emergency sale of household assets and borrowing from other sources, particularly from private moneylenders for high interest rates
- Many people shift to use loans to start micro-enterprises for income generation.
SHGs empower female farmers in rural areas to establish micro businesses and to create jobs in their home villages. As a result, they are not forced to migrate to Thailand or to Phnom Penh anymore looking for rare and poorly paid jobs like many other women, exposing them to exploitation and making them vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and other diseases.