Published Yesterday, Waking the Asian Pacific Cooperative Potential is an academic look into how mutual firms and credit unions have had meaningful change in the Asia Pacific Region. Cufa's CEO, Dr Peter Mason, has contributed an insightful piece on the history of our long term partner organisation, Teachers Mutual Bank.
Dr.Mason’s look takes us through the beginning of the Credit Union movement following the end of the second World War, one of these was the Hornsby Teachers Credit Union, which began in the early 1960’s. Their growth started due to ‘local financial institutions not meeting the needs of the community, due to not only access, but the types of financial products that these institutions offer, perceived unaffordability of interest rates, or financial products that do not meet social needs.’. As they developed, they held a core philosophy of ‘teachers helping teachers’, and their early days reflected that, the early members beginning by recruiting new members during their lunch breaks. The Hornsby Teachers Credit Union became the NSW Teachers Credit Union in 1967, and thanks to automatic payroll deductions, they grew rapidly.
The NSW Teachers Credit Union was one of many credit unions during the height of the 70s, at their peak numbering 833 in total. These credit unions pioneered the first 24 hour Automatic Telling Machines in Australia, and continued to grow into the 80s, and by 1991 they had grown to over 64,000 members and provided over $1 billion dollars in loans to their members.
The book takes an analytical approach to the Asian Co-operative Model, as well as Agricultural Co-operatives, Credit Co-operatives and Worker Co-operatives. Though not written as a coffee table book, it definitely is a book to keep your eye out for if you are keen to understand the intricate and rich history of the Asia-Pacific Co-operative environment.
“We want to supply our soap to all districts in Kampong Cham” pointing to the slowly churning barrel of citrus colored soap, Mony described what her microenterprises next stage was. The workshop was abuzz, people alternating between observing and having a go at the different stages of soap production. Several micro-enterprises, all composed of members from different communities, answered the request to attend the workshop. Each village formed their own microenterprise, Mony helped set up the Rung Roeung Soap Community.
For many in their area, the dominant industry of cashew nuts and rubber plantations have come to a halt as ability to export has dropped greatly, leaving many unemployed. In an effort to assist in alleviating rising unemployment, Cufa initiated the program to provide economic opportunities for these communities.
As the workshop is being packed up, Mony asks our project officers to provide further training on other types of soap production, to expand their product line up. Members from the Housewife Soap Community, discuss their plans to expand production as they load crates of their soap, now in recycled plastic water bottles, onto the back of trucks. Though the government has announced a social support program to people who have become unemployed from the pandemic, the limited amount of just 60% of the minimum wage (USD $190 a month) is being received by workers as not enough(David Hutt, 2020). For this reason, we aim to create microenterprises meeting a demand.
Though the cashew and rubber plantations may be quiet for the time being, there is a renewed activity in the community, as a rekindled sense of hope is sparked with this opportunity.
David Hutt, 2020, The Diplomat, ‘Does Cambodia’s Coronavirus Bailout Really Add Up?’, visit here, Viewed on the 30/6/2020.
For those who sponsor our Village Entrepreneur Program, our program staff are hard at work keeping in contact with the entrepreneurs trying to ensure that they are getting the same quality assistance and training provided before the pandemic, delivered remotely. Our program staff are contacting the entrepreneurs over the phone to provide training and counselling to each individual entrepreneur and working with our volunteers in the village entrepreneur communities to monitor their progress.
Here, one of volunteers is counselling two village entrepreneurs, presenting them with handouts that our Cambodia office have developed to assist the entrepreneurs. On the phone of one of our volunteers they are viewing an instructional learning video made by Cufa, which we believe can continue to deliver our regular training.
Here, our village entrepreneur program officer is counselling a village entrepreneur regarding their micro-enterprise, providing further assistance and clarification regarding the videos supplied by Cufa. By contacting the entrepreneur independently, they can assist each entrepreneur to their needs. As the program officer reports, some entrepreneurs cannot read and the contains either need to be explained to them, or their children read it out for them.
Some Village Entrepreneurs are making the most of the situation however, as one of the program officers reports that “as borders are closed currently, so the domestic farming product prices have been increasing notably, and we advised the VEs to increase the supply of their products.” Our Village Entrepreneur Officer, states that “Though the Village Entrepreneurs are finding it difficult adapting to the Coronavirus, many are making the most of it".
The global impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been felt by many, and though in Australia the curve is flattening, and life is returning to some normalcy, the peak of the effects of the pandemic may not have yet been felt in developing countries around the world. Learn how Cufa is prioritizing its Covid-19 response to both help flatten the curve in Cambodia whilst also providing sustainable business opportunities.
The Covid-19 Crisis is a global crisis, affecting everyone, everywhere, and although it does not discriminate between race, gender, economic or soial status, the effects of the virus will especially impact those who are more financially disadvantaged. According to the World Bank, although now communities located in rural areas have a lesser risk of catching the disease, the resulting economic disruptions “are likely to be particularly damaging for the poor and vulnerable”.
In response to the current Covid-19 pandemic, Cufa has streamlined the commencement of the Family Livelihoods Improvement Project COVID-19 or FLIPC19. This project is comprised of a series of workshops that will provide training in the creation of a multi-purpose liquid soap. This project will support their communities’ efforts in slowing the spread of the Covid-19 and will also be used by the participants to start up small, sustainable businesses during and into the future.
Figure 1: Cufa seeks to replicate the successful workshops provided during the SRIRI Project
Cufa had previously conducted similar soap making workshops during its successful Strengthening Resettlement and Income Restoration Implementation (SRIRI) in Cambodia in partnership with the Asian Development Bank (ADB), where we successfully worked with communities displaced by the rehabilitation of a disused railway to find meaningful and sustainable business opportunities. The program, started in 2012, was one of Cufa’s most comprehensive programs, exercising Cufa’s expertise in developing employment, education and economic institutions. We achieved some amazing results in all our target areas, providing financial literacy and vocational training to the thousands of people, especially women.
The villages that the FLIPC-19 program will be conducted in were consulted early in April to identify the needs of the community. An overwhelming concern was that most of the community’s soap supplies were imported from neighboring countries and Phnom Penh, resulting in a shortage of supplies from increased demand due to the Covid-19 pandemic, leaving the community vulnerable and unable to properly protect itself. Following the consultation, we received strong interest in conducting these workshops, especially from women in the community. The empowerment of women through entrepreneurship has always been a priority for Cufa, and we are proud to work with such enthusiastic entrepreneurs.
Following the workshops, Cufa will provide on-going support and training to ensure that participants can grow their small business into a sustainable and profitable business. The project will also include a visit to a model enterprise where participants can see and discuss the elements of a successful business and the challenges which these entrepreneurs have faced. Cufa will also provide training in business development, leadership skills and financial literacy to complement the technical training our participants will receive.
Learn about what Cufa is doing to help slow the spread of Covid-19 and continue to deliver sustainable livelihoods by checking out our website.
Living as a farmer in rural Cambodia often means that locals need to work in multiple businesses to support their family. La Neang is a 39 year old Cambodian mother with 2 children. La is a rice farmer and her husband is working as local construction worker which earns them less than $0.50 per family member per a day to support their family. La has been participating in Cufa’s Village Entrepreneur program for over 2 years, farming chickens behind her house, and with the support of her Australian Community Investor (CI), her business has been able to gradually grow and develop as she has acquired and applied new skills through the program.
Before participating in the program, La was raising her chickens in a small area only partially fenced and suffered some issues which greatly impacted here ability to sustain her business. Some of the issues she faced included her chickens dying due to illness and chickens being stolen or taken by animals due to not being fully enclosed.
Once an Australian CI elected to support La, she was able to participate in the Village Entrepreneur program. The Cufa run program over the few years has taught her new skills and knowledge to improve her business and her earning capacity. This included how to look after her chickens with providing a strong fully fenced coop; making good quality feed and providing a clean water supply to prevent disease and loss. She has also learnt business skills including how
to attract more customers and compete with others in the marketplace. Through the program La has been able to develop her business and increase her chicken product range. La said “I am now happy that I am able to raise my chickens in a safe space surrounded by a secure, strong wire fence, keep my baby chicks healthier, and my production is increasing”. La has improved her breeding program and she is now raising about 70 chickens whereas previously it was only about 20 chickens. With the increase in her business profit, La said she has used it to afford to support her children education and family’s healthcare, purchase furniture and save $2.50 per month to ensure they have a better life in the future. To ensure the sustainability of her farm in the future, La has a plan to expand the farming areas and coop size, construct more special coops for baby chickens and learn more technical and business skills. “I and my family would like to say big thanks to my community investor for the kind support, without the support, my business would not be improved like this, and we hope that the business will more benefit as income for my family”, La added.
In the September issue of Cufa Voice we brought to you the launch of our new Recycling Plastics Livelihood Project in Cambodia south-west Sihanoukville Province. This project is designed to improve the livelihoods, economic and entrepreneurial opportunities for rural communities in the Sihanoukville Province with a strong focus on developing female entrepreneurs and
Chea Vanny is one community member in the province who is very interested in actively participating in this project.
Chea is 36 years old single mother of a 5-year-old boy, living with her parents in a village in the Sihanoukville province. Chea was widowed when her son was 6 months old. As a widow, Chea has had to focus on taking care of her young son and so she couldn’t work in the factory or casino like some of her neighbours. Her sister and parents currently support the cost of her son's education.? After Chea was introduced to our Recycling Plastics program, she was very interested and thought it would provide potential for her to generate an income so she did not have to rely on her family members for assistance. Chea said that not only would it provide a means of financial support for her and her son but she said “I want to learn how to recycle the plastic as today there is a lot of plastic everywhere along the public road and on the lake near my house”.
Project participants, like Chea, will learn how to use specialist machinery to recycle plastic waste so that it can be remodelled into items that can be sold. These technical skills will be enhanced with participants receiving business and financial skills training and support to enable them to establish a sustainable business with the added benefits of bringing the concept of recycling to rural communities, increasing awareness on how to manage plastic waste and more broadly, cleaning-up the environment.
When Thida was 10 years old she spent her money on toys, junk food, and other things that she wanted. She did not know how the value of money and did not understand the need to save for any emergency needs in the future. This was before attending the Cufa’s Children’s Financial Literacy program during the 2012-13 school year which laid the foundation for her future goals.
Today, Thida is 17 years old and lives with her parents, 2 sisters in Cambodia. She is the youngest daughter and her father works in the construction industry and her mother grows vegetables and raises chickens. Thida is now a first year university student at University studying a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in English Literature with a career goal of becoming an English teacher.
Thida says “the knowledge I received from the program 7 years ago when I was in grade 6 at primary school had a significant impact on me and it prepared me to set and strive to achieve higher goals from my small savings that I had then started.”
“After attending the Cufa program during school, I started saving her money in a piggy bank which I had asked my mother to buy it for me”, Thida said. “I set my savings goals, and first saved to pay for study materials, my school uniform and a bicycle”, she added.
Thida always hoped to continue to study at university when she was at primary school because her uncle was studying at university at that time. Thida said she really wanted to thank Cufa and the donors that supported the CFL project in Cambodia as the CFL program provided her with the money management skills when she was young laying the foundation that allowed her to develop a strong habit of saving and managing her money well.
Nowadays, she still saving money in her piggy bank but only 500 riels (18c AUD) a day as she spends more money now on her university needs.
Many children, like Thida, in poor communities in Cambodia can’t save the money for their school fees due to the low income of their family household but what they can do and useful for the family is saving the money to buy their school materials and uniform.
Read more about Cufa’s programs at cufa.org.au/our-programs/
Savatt Pann is 48 years old and a father of six children. He lost his right hand and left eye in 1984 during the Cambodian war near the border of Thailand. He used to feel guilty as his family had to live in a small palm leaf house as it was difficult for him to find better paying work due to his education and disability Around 4 years ago Savatt has started to raise some pigs, earning a small amount of money to contribute to supporting his family.
It was in 2016 that Cufa staff in Cambodia identified Savatt as being eligible to participate in its Village Entrepreneur (VE) program. This program is designed to provide essential education and business skills, support, and guidance participants need to run and build a profitable micro-business. More importantly, this program enables them to provide essential services to their families such as healthcare, education for their children, sanitation, electricity and water; services that were not affordable for them before joining the program. The Australian public select an individual Village Entrepreneur to support at a cost of $39 per month to help them build their own micro-business and become financially sustainable within three years. Savatt said that when he was selected that he was committed to the program and did not want to disappoint. He said that he would try his best to change his business his family’s standard of living.
Savatt said that through the program he has learnt many skills in business management and farming activities. “I am more able now to looking after the health of my pigs. I can make good feed for them and prevent them from getting sick by using bacteria killing liquid and I have built a better, bigger pig pen which I regularly clean”, he said.
Savatt said his pig farming business had contributed to being able to change his family’s livings conditions. Recently, he has used the profits to build a new house, install a sanitary toilet and improve other household items. He also said he has been able to afford to support his younger children’s education. He added “I have recently purchased good stationeries, new bicycles, and uniforms for my kids, and I am saving up in my account to support their studies in higher education and also to ensure good healthcare for my family members”.
Savatt’s goal is to have a regular income to support his family and ensure his children can get a higher education. To make this happen, he decided to expand his small pig farming business and using the farming and business management skills learnt and his business profit Savatt has now started duck and cow farming so that he could earn more money to support his family.
Savatt said “I will never stop my farming businesses, I like them, and wanted to see them keep growing. I will also purchase a few cows to raise so I can sell them for profits and also get cow manure for my rice field.”
Savatt said he is very pleased to be in the program because he could obtain the skills he needed to grow and expand his business. He added, “I want to thank my Australian supporter and wish them good health and successful work.”
To make a real life changing impact today visit ve.org.au and select a Village Entrepreneur to support.
This month Cufa is pleased to report that 14 village entrepreneurs supported by individual Community Investors in Australia, under Cufa’s Village Entrepreneur Program in Cambodia have reached sustainability with their businesses. Businesses ranging from pig, duck and chicken farmers to grocery sellers are now generating profits that enable them to run a viable business and help them change their circumstances for the better providing improvements to their house, affording education and health care for their children and being able to provide regular and better quality food for their families.
An example of the success of the Village Entrepreneur Program can be seen through Ratha Kung’s experience. Ratha is a 28-year-old Cambodian mother of two whose husband sadly passed way three years and now lives with her elderly parents. Ratha was a grocery seller earning around $4.50 a day as the family’s main income. In late December 2016, Ratha expressed the desire to participate in the Cufa program to help her develop the skills and knowledge to expand her grocery business to better support her family and give her children more opportunities in the future. Before the support of the Village Entrepreneur program, Ratha sold a small range of products. Today, she now sells a greater variety of products, and recently she has built a big new stall, and sells coffee and other drinks based on market demand. Ratha’s business income has been increasing over the past 3 years and she is now earning around US$ 823.20 a quarter. Ratha said that “I am happy that I now earn more money from my business and I have used the profits to pay for my family’s needs including building a sanitary toilet, making a vegetable garden to provide better quality food for us, constructing a fence around our house, purchasing stationery and new bikes for my children’s education.” Ratha added “it is with many thanks to the program and the support, that I am able to learn a lot of business skills and I am also happy to share this new knowledge and skills with other village entrepreneurs, and I am so proud now that my business now is built up well to support my family”.
Just like Ratha’s story, Cufa’s Village Entrepreneur program empowers rural villagers in Cambodia, who normally earn less than USD$2 a day, to build and manage a sustainable small business, usually within 3 years. The program encourages, people like yourselves to select a local villager from the profiles on our program website (www.ve.org.au) and commit support of $39 AUD a month. This support provides the training and education, monitoring, ongoing support and guidance from Cufa project officers, and financing that they need to establish, run and grow a profitable micro-business and contribute to the strengthening of their community’s micro-economy. They are also supported with a business plan and taught marketing skills along with financial skills like bookkeeping.
Many people from rural areas, for example, complement their existing skills and learn new techniques to become successful chicken, pig or vegetable farmers. Among other topics they learn about how to take care of their animals and vegetables, vaccination processes, and hygiene in their work areas. Other villagers choose to become tailors, hairdressers, bicycle repairers and many other occupations for which they receive specific training.
Through this program you can assist participants to be able to provide the essential services to their families such as healthcare, education for their children, sanitation, electricity and water; services that were not affordable for them before joining the program.
Support a village entrepreneur today, for only $39 a month you can make a positive impact that will be experienced for generations to come. Visit www.ve.org.au to find out more.
In last month’s newsletter we shared with you the story about, 33-year-old Sreypoa Sin, from the village of Thmor Pean, Cambodia who in 2018 was selected to be a beneficiary of Cufa’s Livelihood Enhancement for Economic Development (LEED) program. Thanks to this Cufa program she successfully established and grew a business, making and selling the local Khymer cakes. At the time, given her success, Sreypoa was exploring other business opportunities and we are happy to advise that she has now set up a tailoring business drawing on her previous 14 years experience of working in a garment factory.
This is an example of how with the confidence, new-found knowledge, business and financial skills, and the support of trained staff, Sreypoa has been able to change her and her families lives around.
It is only through the generous donations from our supporters that we are able to continue to design, establish and run programs to impart financial skills and knowledge to assist those in need build the foundations for a better and sustainable future for themselves and their future generations.
We wish Sreypoa and her family, all the best for their future.