Saving for cassava

Saving for cassava

Phally at her cassava farm in ChhorkChey village, BanteayMeanchey province. Photo: Savann Oeurm/Oxfam

The knowledge that I learned from SfC, how to manage the expense and income of my family, is really important, which not only benefits me but benefits everyone, especially young people in my village, if they start joining the savings group today
Laum Phally, 22

24-year old farmer Laum Phally, who lives along Cambodian-Thai border in ChhorkChey village of Banteay Meanchey province, has a very strong commitment to expanding her cassava business and helping her community learn how to save money.

Phally decided to quit school when she was in grade six to support her parents in producing rice and cassava. She believes that learning how to save money has helped her to resist the urge to migrate away from her village to seek employment as many others have done.

Phally married when she was 22 years old, and now has a son. In 2015, her son was seriously ill, and she did not have themoney to bring him to the hospital. Phally’s entire family also did not have the money on hand so she could not even borrow money from her relatives to treat her son. She finally decided to borrow 400,000 Riel ($100) from a local money lender to pay for her son’s treatment. The interest rate was 40,000 Riel ($10) per month. “This high interest rate brought hardship to my family," she said. "It took me almost a year to pay off the debt.”

Joining for good

Phally joined the Saving for Change (SfC) program through Oxfam’spartner CHRD in February 2016 when she saw the livelihood improvement of SfC members in her village. “Month by month, their money kept increasing, and I saw that they had the money to start small livelihood alternatives such as expanding their farm, raising animals, and buying school materials for their children,” said Phally.

Joining and learning about theSfC model really helped Phally to cope. In her savings group, every member voluntarily contributes 500 Reil ($0.125) weekly to the social fund. This social fund is available to the SfC members during any emergency and contributes to development activities in the village.

Phally said that the SfCprogram provides a space for farmers like her to save and borrow money from the group to use for many purposes. She decided to borrow some money to expand her investment in the cassava farm. Even though this savings group is small and has not yet built up a large fund,it is rare to have any savings at all in this poor rural community.

“So far, I borrowed 300,000 Reil ($75) to remove the weeds in my cassava farm, and I have to pay the interest of 6,000 Riel ($1.5), which is not high if we compare with local moneylender, microfinance institution, or bank. In this coming harvest time, I will take another loan of 500,000 Riel ($125), and hope to return it back after selling the cassava,” said Phally. “Before taking a new loan, first I have to pay off the previous loan,” she added.

As part of being involved in this SfC group, Phally had a chance to join training on Community-Based Enterprise Development (C-BED), through which she learned how to start a small business and expand her agriculture investment. "It is the most interesting part of the C-BED training because it helps me to think seriously about what I am planning to do in the future. It taught me how to analyze my resources and find ways to reach my goal,” said Phally.

Phally currently has a hectare of farmland to grow cassava. In the future, she wants to expand her cassava farm, dig a pond for raising fish, and grow more vegetables to increase her annual income.

“The knowledge that I learned from SfC, how to manage the expense and income of my family, is really important, which not only benefits me but benefits everyone, especially young people in my village, if they start joining the savings group today.”

Phally, who has very strong hopes for SfC, wants to give a message to every youth in her community to stop using drugs and alcohol and start learning to save the money for the future.

“Youths have to follow me and save money. They should join the SfC to learn about family financial management. It really helped us improve our incomes and directed us toward the right direction in the future.”