By Chanratana Som, CUFA Cambodia Country Program Manager
Inspired by the core value and belief in the benefit of a model credit union in his community, Mr. Ting Khamsae, Village Chief of Tumpuon minority group is a member of the Samaky Credit Union.
As a member, he saves regularly, attends CUFA’s training sessions alongside other members, and helps share information with his neighbours on the benefits of being a member of the credit union and smart financial management.
Geographically, Mr. Khamsae’s community, Laming, is located in Borkeo district of Ratanakiri, a province that is home to many different ethnic minority groups in Cambodia. Culturally, this village is different from other Khmer communities, with all adhering to their own unique traditions and customs.
Currently, this small village has a total population of 454 people, most of whom make their living on farming, crop production, and hunting, the latter is almost impossible due to deforestation. Located in a mountainous and remote area, the commune has very poor public infrastructure preventing the inhabitants from accessing basic services, namely education, health and financial services. Communicating with local residents is often a challenge due to the number of different ethnic dialects spoken.
Mr. Khamsae, who is of Tumpuon ethnicity, is a farmer on 6 hectares and a father of nine children, including six daughters. He was appointed as Village Chief in 1994 and has held the title since. He has always served in this role with the highest commitment and pride and has earned the respect of the whole community. He decided to become a member of the credit union to support and aid its growth. He believes in resource mobilization, cooperation and partnership, and local empowerment as tools for growth.
Like many other model credit unions supported by CUFA throughout Cambodia, the Credit Union in Laming was founded in 2011. It started with 29 members who originate from Tumpuon minority group in Ratanakiri. Right after its inception, the credit union was able to raise $333.75 USD in capital through voluntary deposits from its 15 members. Surprisingly, this credit union has reached 32 members, including 8 females. In March 2014 the credit union had a total capital of $1,046.5 USD.
Khamsae believes that setting up a credit union will help his community because people will start saving, will have access to training and support from their credit union and CUFA, and it also will help to build camaraderie within the community. They can also access loans for various purposes.
“I joined this credit union because I know that we can help each other through saving; all members are very committed because they understand the value of teamwork,” said Khamsae. He also added that the credit union will be playing an important role for members who find themselves in unpredictable family situations. “Throughout my 20-years of experience as a village chief, I have noticed that many villagers have often faced difficulties in getting emergency funds to help their family members when needed. The credit union will help fill this gap,” said the village chief.
Taking a loan from merchants or microfinance organisations is very risky for members of this ethnic group because majority of them are illiterate or partly literate and have never received any education in financial management. Subsequently they are susceptible to exploitation as they usually do not fully comprehend the consequences of their agreements.
Mr. Khamsae wants to be a role model for other members, so he makes monthly deposits of 5,000 Riel per month to his savings account. To date, he has saved up to 120,000 Riel. He also spends time attending the various training sessions provided by CUFA, attending sessions on financial literacy, bookkeeping and policy development. He has found the courses helpful and interesting. “Those courses helped me to better budget my income and I can keep track of my expenditure wisely,” he added.
Mr. Khamsae plans to apply for some small loans next year to help him purchase items for his farm and boost agricultural productivity. He is very optimistic about the credit union’s future because it is responsibly run by local villagers and they have the support of CUFA. He stressed that “as the credit union committee was locally elected, they really understand us.” He is hoping that the credit union will attract more members in order to raise more capital which can be given out as loans. He hopes to see the credit union reach sustainability and be strong in the near future so his community can benefit and develop.