Gateway Credit Union Director assists rural credit unions in Cambodia

By Tongngy Kaing, Communication Officer CUFA

Gateway Credit Union Director and valued volunteer to CUFA, Graham Raward visited Cambodia to assist the Co-operative Association of Cambodia (CAC) with its board meeting in late November 2013. During the week-long visit, he helped the association to make its policies and strategy for 2014-2016 and visited six credit unions in three different provinces of Cambodia.

Mr Raward is a director of Gateway Credit Union in Australia and began volunteering with CUFA in 2012 by providing technical support and advice to CUFA’s partner, CAC. As an advisor to CAC, he regularly provides technical support and attends their board meetings in Cambodia twice a year. So far Mr Raward has assisted CAC in a number of areas, such as bookkeeping.

Mr Raward arrived in Cambodia in late November to attend CAC’s board meeting with the CAC President and nine credit union board members. The meeting commenced with CAC President, Sarinda Vong reporting on the last board meeting and their achievements during the year. However, the most important component of the meeting was the reviewing of CAC’s policies, which centred on attracting more members and ensuring the growth and sustainability of the credit unions they support.

CAC can only authorise the policies as long as the majority of board members approve them. There were some discussions amongst the board members about keeping CAC ahead of its competitors, such as microfinance institutions, by increasing savings interest rates for members. However, they decided to keep a low interest rate as it would require increasing the interest rates on loans which could harm poorer members.

After the policy review, CAC also introduced an assessment tool for member engagement. They also concluded that, other than focusing on increasing membership in each credit union, CAC needs to encourage the credit unions to begin going through an auditing process. Thus, the credit union members requested Mr Raward provide training on auditing in their next board meeting scheduled for May 2014.

On the last day of the board meeting, CAC invited their staff and the board members for a dinner at a local restaurant which provided a great opportunity for CAC to build strong relationships with its staff and board members, according to the CAC President.

From 27 to 29 November, Mr Raward, accompanied by CAC staff, visited five credit unions in Kampong Chhnang, Takeo and Prey Veng. The trip aimed to aid Mr Raward’s understanding of the situation of rural credit unions in Cambodia, so that he could provide more efficient technical support.

CAC was formed by five groups of savings and credit co-ops who wanted to assist poor people living in rural areas that could not access financial services from microfinance institutions (MFIs) and banks. CAC was formed on September 27, 2007 and began to operate its activities in early 2008. Before officially forming, CAC had implemented, with success, its action learning and pilot assistance program, working with the Cooperative Union of Farmers based at Tramkok district, Takeo province in 2003 – 2007, Saving and Credit Associations at Rolea Pae distirct, Kampong Chnang province in 2007.

The cooperative federation is a central financial facility operation, building capacity and owned and controlled by its members. It is a not-for-profit service organisation which assists co-operatives to build a better future through providing services that build self-reliance and quality management. CAC has 37 credit union members with three currently awaiting approval to become new members.

CUFA have been working with CAC since 2010.

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