Before CARE built the community pond, Thy had to buy water when this became scarce. If she hadn’t learned to make a good income from her home-raised livestock, she wouldn’t have had additional money she could spend on this water. If she hadn’t been part of a community savings group set up by CARE, she wouldn’t have anywhere she could easily get a loan to cover her needs when money was short. Without these, Thy would have been totally reliant on her husband’s income, which would not have been enough for them to cope with the worst drought in decades.
CARE has been working in Thy’s community for many years, encouraging women to develop small agricultural businesses so they can be financially independent and play an equal role in their family and community. Thy has taken advantage of training on everything from effective ways to raise pigs to financial literacy. As a result, the drought has been an inconvenience she could manage rather than having the devastating impact experienced by others.
“Before I raised animals at my home but I didn’t know how to do this well so I didn’t make any money. This year alone I’ve sold 10 pigs and made 700,000 riel (USD$175). I also raise chickens and grow vegetables, so I have many sources of income and I have learned how to negotiate well so I can get a high profit.
“I am very happy that I can earn money by myself. I have confidence in my ability to earn money by myself and that I can make my family strong. My husband and I now both earn money equally.”
Thy also saves in a community savings group called a Village Saving and Loans Association (VSLA) and uses her new business skills to calculate what she should invest in to improve her income even more. As a VSLA member, if her family finances had become really tight during the drought, she would have been able to access a low-interest loan to cover her needs.
However, instead of taking loan, CARE’s support with the pond is now helping her save more for her future. “Without the pond to provide water for my farm, I would have to pay for water – around 40,000 ($10) every five days. Instead, I can continue saving this money for the future,” Thy says.
Thy has become very good at adapting to situations and has already recognised the business opportunity the new pond presents. “I had been saving to buy more vegetable seeds but now I actually think that a better long-term investment would be to buy a pump machine so I can more easily get enough water from the pond to my farm. This will help me to have good land so I can grow even more vegetables in the future.”
CARE didn’t distribute emergency relief to Thy during the drought because she didn’t need it. Her hard work and dedication meant she had built her own small business and amassed savings for a rainy—or, in this case, not so rainy—day. This meant her family didn’t have to choose between food and water as others did when wells dried up. Thy had not one but three layers of strength and support to draw upon so she didn’t need to rely on anyone but herself.
Thy is a great example of a woman taking the tools CARE offered and using them to build her own resilience, a much stronger way of helping her and her family in the long run.
These activities are part of the Local Economic Leaders (LEL) project, which is funded by the Australian Government.