Cambodia has seen significant economic growth in the past few decades leading to decline in poverty levels, but much of the poor are vulnerable to shocks. Poverty in Cambodia still affects 75% of the country’s population, mainly residing in villages.
In June 2012, Hand in Hand India, along with Cambodian Rural Development Team (CRDT) and the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), started a pilot Livelihoods Project in Cambodia. The objective was to contextualize Hand in Hand’s SHG model in Cambodia and broadly for South East Asia. Following a needs assessment in 2011, Kratie and Strung Treng provinces were identified to be the most suitable for the pilot project. Both Kratie and Strung Treng provinces depend on agriculture and have per capita and household incomes better than the national average. Employment opportunities outside of agriculture were limited and hence alternative livelihoods were necessary. The Project helped the community to identify and start businesses in different sectors.
CRDT is the implementing partner responsible for SHG formation, training, providing microcredit, enterprise profiling and up-grading, and value-chain creation. AIT, Thailand, was the coordinating partner, while Hand in Hand India through Hand in Hand Consulting Services Pvt. Ltd provided technical advice to CRDT. Phase I of the project commenced in July 2012 and ended June 2013 during which 75 SHG groups, comprising 783 members, were formed.
Phase II of the project commenced in July 2013 and ended in March 2014. This phase was a continuation of the earlier phase and the objective was to deepen the presence of the SHGs in the two provinces.
Hand in Hand Cambodia, a local NGO registered under the Cambodian law, has been registered to scale up the pilot into a full program. Hand in Hand Cambodia will have the mandate of implementing the social and economic empowerment projects for the rural poor, similar to those of HiH India. It will
(i) conduct training and capacity building activities for enterprise creation
(ii) run awareness campaigns on health and nutrition,
(iii) ensure child enrollment and retention in schools,
(iv) create awareness on women’s rights.
Hand in Hand Cambodia will also promote the Mekong Credit Association that will provide microfinance services in rural Cambodia.