Indigenous communities reap benefits of simple savings groups
Roneng is a remote area in the west of Mondul Kiri, where many belong to Phnong ethnic minority. Since 2015, local farmers have been trying to improve their family situation and their finances by joining community savings groups. Mrs. Seang Sorphorn, 23, is a shining example of the transformation which can be wrought simply by saving every week.
Sophorn migrated to Roneng with her family to work on a rubber plantation. Now married with two young children, she has been saving with her group, called a Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA), for almost two years. Sophorn says she has never missed a weekly saving meeting because she realises how important this is for her family.
The support of the group helped Sorphorn to save 300,000 riel (UDS$75) in just nine months. With this money she was able to open a small grocery shop in her village. She says that this work has allowed her to contribute to increasing her family income and has improved life for the whole family.
“In the past, my family depended only on my husband. He always worked hard, going into the forest to find firewoood and other forest products to sell. It was difficult to make a living and at first we found it hard to save shares with the group each week. But the effort was worth it; this shop is very good for my family as I can use the profit that I earn from this for my family’s daily food, health care, and education for my children as well as saving more with the group.
“I think saving is very important for my family as well as for the community. If we know how to save money our life will be better.” She smiles, and adds “I have been able to use money that I have saved to pay back a debt we had, for construction work on our house and I have just bought one cow.”
Sophorn’s success has inspired other VSLA members and encouraged more people in the community to learn how VSLA groups can help improve their lives. The village now has two savings groups and Sophorn is confident that this will have an impact on poverty in her community, helping people to change their lives for the better. She continues to be a great example of a woman who has taken action to improve her family’s prospects and hopes to act as a role model for others.
This work is part of Partnering to Save Lives, which is funded by the Australian government.