Ou Mreah Commune, located in Siem Bouk district, Stung Treng province, is a remote and poor commune consisting of 4 villages with a population of 2,840 people (1,362 females) living in 705 households. People mostly depend on agricultural activities (95%) and involve in illegal logging and not participating in natural resource protection and 38% (2013) of the target households lived below the poverty line (USD 1 per day) before joining the farmer co-op. The biggest challenges were a lack of capacity to develop and implement micro-business, low market prices, and lack of capital preventing them from scaling up their businesses.
In 2014, WE Fund was introduced to poor farmers in Ou Mreah through Mlup Baitong’s project. The main purpose was to enable them, especially women to develop capacities and adapt mechanisms for sustainable community livelihood improvement, particularly for micro-business development and community forest establishment. They established Community Forest Management Committee with 119 household members to protect community forest. After that, they established an Agriculture Cooperative named Ou Mreah Agriculture Cooperative (OM-AC), which was officially registered on May 28, 2014. The cooperative is consisted of 100 members of whom 67% (67/100) are females up to December, 2016. The members of the AC committee were trained in management, Self Help Group (SHG)/Village Saving and Loan Association (VSLA) development, and marketing. AC members received training in pig, chicken and frog raising, home gardening, and compost making. In order to increase the AC’s capital, the project formed a self-help group (SHG) to mobilize resources from AC members and others. In 2016 they had accumulated a total capital of US$ 13,999 for providing credit services to AC members for the development of businesses and supported model farmers to apply new technologies. With trainings and a credit scheme 14 AC members have replicated the new technologies, which were introduced by the project. 5 AC members raised 4,000 frogs in 2016.
They generated US$ 4,412 of income from frog farming and gained profits of US$ 45 for the first cycle. They will get more profit for next cycle, because of less input investment. Other members were interested in frog farming so that AC have just initiated a new business of frog feed production, which will enable to enlarge number of frog farms and to buy quality feed at a good price.
Members are happy with their achievements and are looking forward to a bright future: “Our lives have gradually changed since we started this business. We will therefore continue frog raising and other services in order to have a stable income and a better life.” Based on our survey, we found that 21% of total annual income of farmers was generated from applying training knowledge through micro-business operation in 2016.