Capacity Building for Rice Bank Management Committee in Mondulkiri province

Map of Cambodia highlighting Mondulkiri

Image via Wikipedia

Mondulkiri is one of the remote provinces in eastern Cambodia and is more than 420 km far away from Phnom Penh. One of the components of the EU/CEDAC funding project in Mondulkiri is to set up 15 rice banks in 30 target villages of the project in order to eradicate the food shortage among vulnerable families. 2 villages will join together to set up a RB at inter-village level. The project will support the management RB’s committee members in order to facilitate the monthly meeting of its members by themselves. The project will also provide directly support by organizing the group training for 60 RB management committee members (4 member/RB) at the inter-village level to draft and adopt their by-law and internal regulation, RB management, including lending and borrowing policies. Additionally, 15 storehouses (one per RB) will be constructed with the contribution of 20% from the RB’s members. The project will contribute 80% of the total expense of one storehouse. The size of the storehouse is 3m x 4m and 2 meters high. The wall will be built by wood and zinc for the roof.

On the road from Mondulkiri to Koh Nhek district

I went there with the project officer, Mr. Yim Sok Sophors, in order to provide training support to RB’s management committee members on:

  • Background and objective of setting up the RB
  • Organization and management structure of RB
  • Sharing of key lessons learnt from other RB projects
  • Providing some recommendations on RB

Time frame

  • 20 September 2010: Preparation and travelling to Mondulkiri
  • 21 September 2010: Training in Sok San commune
  • 22 September 2010: Training in Sre Sangkum commune
  • 23 September 2010: Training in Sre Ampum commune and return to Phnom Penh

Venue, participants and agenda

Rice field in Sok San commune, Koh Nhek district, in the middle of the Jungle

Three trainings were organized in Sok San, Sre Sangkum commune in Koh Nhek district and Sre Ampum commune in Pechreada district. Koh Nhek district is more than 100 km away from Mondulkiri provincial town and close to the border to Vietnam. The main agenda of the training was:

– Introduction of facilitator and participants, hot news

– Introduction to the background and the activities of the project

– Review of the last meeting on RB

– Background, organization and management structure of RB

– Other issues and closing

Meeting in Sok San commune meeting hall on 21.09.10

There were 20 participants, of whom 2 women; participated in the first half-day training. They came from Chi Klob, Tuol, Klong Lai, Sre Thom and Anhchom villages. They were representatives of farmer associations, saving groups, local authority and potential RB committee members. 21 participants, of whom 7 women; joined the second half-day training. They came from Chamroeun, Tuol, Antres, Oh Buon, Kbal Koh, Kbal Chroy, Serei Meanrith, Oh Yeh, Sre Huy and Serei Mongkol villages. They were representatives of farmer associations, saving groups, local authority and potential RB committee members. There were 10 participants, of whom 4 women, joining the half-day training. They came from different villages. Since there was heavy rain at the night before, many participants could not come to join as invited due to the muddy road and long distance. The meeting could only begin at 9:00 am.

Results and Suggestions

During the meeting

After spending the whole morning listening and discussing with the participants following observation could be made:

– Only around one third of the participants did join the last trainings. Most of them come for the first time. There is discontinuity in this regards.

– Some participants received fair knowledge on the importance of creating RB.

– After joining the training at the inter-village level, village level meeting was not organized by the trainee or future committee members, so that information flow is blocked.

– Only in one village, in Chi Klob, they have some experience in RB and saving group.

– Many committee members and local authorities did have fair knowledge on saving or being members of the saving group, which is a good start for other collective action such as RB.

– In Sre Ampum commune nearly all of the participants are new to RB. They have not joined the first training which could be difficult for them to follow.

– Around 30% of the villagers are facing food shortage every year, a real need to create RB to help them.

– Rice interest is very high, from 100 to 300%; it depends on middleman.

– Interest to organize themselves in RB is visible.

I spent time to reflect with participants on the importance of creating RB, especially on main steps of organizing RB. Those main steps are as follow:

  1. Feasibility study or need analysis phase: discussion with village elderly, local authority, poor villagers and other NGO staff to explore the need.
  2. Organization phase: Discussion with target groups, select temporary committee members, drafting by-law and internal regulation, membership issues, interest rate, borrowing and return-payment procedure, trainings on the job etc.
  3. Formal set up phase: Approval the by-law and regulation by members, election, building the storehouse, put procedures in written format, bookkeeping documents, trainings n the job
  4. Supporting phase: regular follow up technical support, checking lending records etc. 

Key suggestions provided by me are as follow:

  • All potential or targeted members should understand the rational and objective of creating RB.
  • Start small, especially with people who understand the concept of RB and would like to joint voluntarily. No need to ask too many people to join if they have not well understood the objectives to create RB.
  • Start with a village where the committee members understand the importance and the concept of RB very clearly such as in Chi Klob village. Use it as role model for other farmers to visit and learn.
  • The storehouse should be built on a safe ground (next to the trustworthy committee member’s house, on collective land, inside the pagoda etc.).
  • The keys of the storehouse should be kept by at least two different committee members.
  • Women should be encouraged to join the RB committee since they are soft in communication and hard in calculation and bookkeeping.
  • Exposure trips should be organized locally and/or within the region or to other provinces so that committee members would se with their own eyes and learnt from existing experiences. 

Requests by farmers

  1. Helping to facilitate meeting in some critical villages
  2. Facilitating in drafting the by-law and internal regulation
  3. Facilitating the selection and election process of RB management committee members
  4. Providing materials and financial support to build the storehouse

 

Our car got stucked in the mud for nearly three hours. We then had lunch at 3pm.

At the end of the session, I thanked the project staff and the participants who made these trainings possible. He also thanked the commune authority for providing the meeting hall for our training. He urged the project staff to continue providing regular technical support in facilitating the meeting with farmers at the village level, so that all potential members would understand clearly the background and objectives of RB before entering the creation stage and building the storehouse.

It is important to note that in 2004, I, Mr. Y Kadum and Mr. Lang Chanthea of CEDAC, have done an extensive survey on RB in Cambodia. The output of the survey is a report on “Rice Banks: Lessons Learnt from Cambodia”, an inventory and Manual to create rice bank in Cambodia. At that time there were more than 3,000 RB throughout the contry identified.

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