As Oxfam’s Saving for Change (SfC) program continues to support poverty alleviation in Cambodia, the model is on its way to communities throughout the region, reaching neighbouring countries Laos, Timor-Leste and Myanmar. Seven local Oxfam partners in Cambodia are currently involved in the SfC project which responds in two-year capacity building cycles and in the coming months a pilot project in Laos will be implemented in partnership with Laos Women’s Union.
After completing a year of feasibility studies and translation of the SfC manual, Laos SfC Program Officer Lathdavone Lasachak said the team is looking forward to interpret the SfC manual into the Lao context and pilot a saving model in their target areas to ensurre a sustainable venture for communities in order to increase the ownership over their finances. However, Lathdavone also highlighted the unforeseen challenges the team expects to change communities behavior from the usual saving group model to understand the long term benefits of the innovative SfC structure that encourages further community involvement but requires individual.
Oxfam Cambodia SfC Coordinator, Mr Cheth Phay said the similar context of the communities that have benefited from the project in Cambodia and those expected to receive the training in Laos, encourages an expected optimistic outcome. The SfC model differs from the traditionally grant-driven saving groups, to ensure communities “own” the saving group from the beginning, creating a platform of financial inclusion for the poor and encouraging development of independent financial management skills. “If it is their own money, it is their own power,” Cheth said.
Oxfam Cambodia will support the Laos team with technical support, including methodology training, exposure to successful projects, and visits to ensure the project is implemented as initially planned. Oxfam team in Laos in partnership with Lao Women Union will then provide a formal training to partners in Laos to build their capacity and be able to provide training for the communities in the target areas.
“We are working with the Lao women union which aimed to pilot saving for change groups in two target areas and if those pilot model are functioning, then we will consider to integrate this methodology into other Oxfam Laos projects” Lathdavone said.
Oxfam in Cambodia continues to work with local partners and as an extension has been advised of replicate models throughout the country. Oxfam’s commitment to phase out their involvement after two years of providing training to communities makes data on the amount of SfC groups started difficult to obtain, however contact with SfC leaders from communities around Cambodia continues to highlight the extensive reach of the program. The approach has been identified by international NGOs such as Caritas as a vital financial building approach to improve the livelihoods of people living in poverty. In April 2016, Oxfam’s SfC team provided training to Caritas Australia and ten of their partners to share information about the program and the successful outcomes in Cambodia.
“It’s not appropriate only for Laos but this model can apply in everywhere because It is a sustainable way for community to save money on their own, what’s more this methodology also play an important role on encouraging them to be high responsible and create solidarity among the Lathdavone said.
Myanmar is the next target demographic for the program, with a field trip from the Oxfam Myanmar team and partners to visit successful projects in Cambodia later this year.
Writen by: Sarah Jane
“We are working with the Lao women union which aimed to pilot saving for change groups in two target areas and if those pilot model are functioning, then we will consider to integrate this methodology into other Oxfam Laos projects”