On Boxing Day in 2004, a devastating Tsunami impacted the coasts of South Asia, Indonesia and East Africa. This disaster required international and domestic efforts to rebuild the affected areas. Following the immediate recovery period, Cufa worked in Sri Lanka to reconstruct and rebuild local credit unions. The Tsunami had enacted a devastating toll on the local credit unions, with over 200 destroyed in Sri Lanka.
In 2006, Cufa worked with the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) to undertake the project, welcoming the expertise and funding Cufa brought to the project. WOCCU responded rapidly to the disaster, having an extensive history in Sri Lanka, conducting a wide-ranging consultation process with communities impacted by the disaster. By doing so, a plan was developed to rehabilitate and rebuild the credit unions. As part of this plan, Cufa conducted a monitoring visit, interviewing project beneficiaries across Sri Lanka.
Cufa saw an enthusiastic comeback by the credit unions, with the credit union in Kosgoda seeing a 50% increase in membership. Their assets increased totalling R 2.6 million, up from R 1.6 million before the Tsunami. Cufa also assisted in the reopening of eight credit unions
Chesa finishes up on the final touches of packaging her products in the early morning sun, ready for the day’s markets. Chesa lives with her husband and two children close to the city, but due to poor roads and public transportation, it’s a difficult commute. Because of this, it results in lower education levels in her area. Cufa’s arrival in the area allowed Chesa and her neighbours to study financial literacy and start up their own Village Savings Bank. This gave her community access to credit and various types of loan with training sessions provided alongside.
Before Cufa’s arrival, her lack of financial knowledge had meant that she did not have enough income to fully support her family. By attending Cufa’s training session, Chesa’s family now regularly saves. Through a loan from her local village savings banks, she has grown her small agriculture farming business and expanded into livestock farming.
By working with Cufa, Chesa’s community has been able to cement a foundation of financial inclusion, allowing the community’s youngest the opportunity to grow up involved in financial literacy.
Before 2017, Chanlina lived a tough life, as she struggled to make ends meet, working odd jobs in cashew and rubber plantations. Chanlina looked for advice with a local village elder, who pointed her towards a village savings bank (VSB) that worked with Cufa. When she joined up, Cufa worked with her and others in her village to develop their entrepreneurial and financial management skills, opening her up to the importance of saving.
Now she has been able to set up a micro-enterprise as a grocer in the local market, borrowing money from her VSB to buy her business’s initial expenses. After several successful years, she now generates around USD 300 monthly. She is now committed to saving, putting away $24 USD each month for budgeting or her husband’s treatment.,
For Chanlina, her microenterprise and the support from her village savings bank means she has been able to create stability in her and her family’s life. It has freed her from being constantly worried about her next payment and allowed her to plan for the future.
“I would like to thank Cufa for supporting and training my village savings bank and teaching me the fundamentals to set up my microenterprise. The money my village savings bank saves together is not only to support myself, but it’s there to make everyone in the community prosperous. I am very to be a member of this group” – Chanlina.
The workshop is filled slowly, as the trainees discuss the weekend, the weather and the lockdown measures currently affecting Myanmar’s Yangon District. The workshop, the first day of what is set up to be a groundbreaking project, will see these participants become competent in the operation and maintenance of Cufa’s new DigiCUD program. They are Cufa’s Myanmar staff members, with prior experience in our Credit Union Development Program.
We mentioned in the last newsletter about how Thura, one of Cufa’s existing CUD members interacts with his local credit union, now we are progressing to project implementation, with training commencing designed to take our staff through everything on the BanQin mobile application. This sophisticated and secure application was designed in house by BanQin, a sister company to Bank-Genie, a South East Asia focused telecommunications company. Their expertise in the South East Asian area has meant that they are keenly aware of the context and conditions that are unique to the region. BanQin’s company mission is to improve the lives of the vulnerable and disadvantaged by enabling, through mobile banking initiatives, social mobility, poverty reduction and access to banking for those who do not already have their own bank accounts. In a recent interview with NextGen Core Banking Solutions, Dr Peter Mason, Cufa’s CEO, details how for several years, Cufa has been looking for a mobile banking solution, and it was not until now, that Cufa has been confident with a product.
Now, even though Cufa and Bank Genie share common goals, what does it actually mean for Thura, and more importantly the Rural Burmese who remain unable to access vital banking and financial services? What it delivers for our current and future credit union members is a complete mobile banking service, enabling them to complete transactions, with sophisticated security system, whilst also enabling features like credit scoring to enable further financial services. Each credit union offers their own financial loan and savings products, tailored to their community needs, all available on phones that can be purchased at an affordable price.
For the members of our credit unions in Myanmar, the ability to see their bank balance grow in their hands with the training that Cufa provides enables them to watch their savings grow in their hands, or request a loan application far away from their home.
A rhythmic hum of sowing machines permeates the small room, as Ohn San attempts to finish her most recent work. Ohn San, who lives in Pin Int Village in Myanmar, began her hand made goods business in 2015, focusing on gift making, and then branching out from there. When she heard that Cufa was running a program focused on business management, she quickly signed up, eager to grow her skills.
The program with support from UNDP, gave her the necessary understanding needed to grow her business. Ohn like many entrepreneurs understand the basics of ensuring your costs do not outweigh your profits, but don’t factor in how important things such as bookkeeping are to a business. Cufa’s training, conducted virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on Ohn’s outlook on her business. Ohn has been able to walk away from the lessons with a greater comprehension of the skills needed to grow her business.
Shwe, like Ohn, is an entrepreneur, but is new to being her own boss. Hearing the Cufa was offering a series of workshops to helping inspiring entrepreneurs, she joined up. Joining a separate start up focused pathway, which gave her more pertinent knowledge. Cufa was able to provide her a daily allowance to work around her daily work needs and ran virtual classes to ensure Covid-19 safety. After participating in the lessons, her belief in her future possibilities grew. “I came up with ideas by self-confident on how to do a business at the end of the training, so I will apply the lessons learned in the training in my fishery business” she states cheerfully. She hopes to go forward and share her skills with her community and attend future training sessions.
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Before 2020, the small village that Mr Kim Yhen is from, much like the rest of Cambodia, seeing a modest increase in living standards. An increase in education and skills in the community had allowed for the growth of good jobs in the area. Kim was seeing that ambition and enthusiasm in the classes he was teaching, with children who were excited to learn. Now the school yard, once filled with kids of all ages playing ball games or tag, lies empty, a common story for schools in Australia only a few months ago. For Mr. Kim, a schoolteacher, that meant he was out of work. Mr. Kim would traditionally rely on his second form of income, cashew farming, but as this article in the Khmer Times points out, prices have plummeted recently, brought on by border restrictions and reduction in global demand.
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Without any form of income, the situation became dire for Kim. Mr. Po Sophea, a Cufa Staff member who is on the project staff involved in Cufa’s FLIP 19 soap making workshops, was looking for members to join the social enterprises. Kim, not one to pass on a golden opportunity, decided to join one of the social enterprises, named the House Wife Production Group. Kim, as a teacher, knew the importance of learning and so participated actively in all the workshops the Cufa conducted, including the soap making, general business management and accounting skills training programs.
He has been participating as part of his social enterprise, which has seen a profit of USD $ 315.25 total, with the most recent profit reported being $128.75, the second highest out of the 5 community enterprises that Cufa is working with for that month. Kim and his community enterprise are currently continuing to search the market to grow their income, confident that the growing awareness and demand for sanitary products caused by Covid-19 will bring greater income.