Effective Learning about managing small grants. The case of Phnom Krauch Community Forestry

Phnom Krauch Community Forestry was established in 2005 with support from Ockenden and its NGO partner, in collaboration with Ratanakiri Forestry Administration Cantonment. Since then, there have been 235 indigenous members (87 women) -whose livelihoods depend mainly on forest products and subsistent farming (rice, cassava, soybean, vegetable and animal production)- who have participated in the Community Forestry to protect their natural forests of 178 ha. The Community Forestry members have fought a long battle against a rapid wide spread of deforestation / illegal logging and land encroachment by the rich, powerful people and private companies so far.

To protect and manage their natural resources effectively, the community has looked for ways to mobilize resources and production inputs to improve their farming practices and livelihoods.
That why, in 2005, Phnom Krauch Community Forestry joined the project “Strengthening Farmers and Community Based Organizations for Rural Development in Ratanakiri”, funded by ‘LaCaixa’ Foundation through ETEA Foundation and Ockenden Cambodia. At the beginning, key members participated in the training courses about crop and animal production, strengthening/forming structure of indigenous people cooperatives, leadership roles, formation and management of structure, basic financial bookkeeping/management, among others.

After the training, 25 members from the Phnom Krauch Community Forestry came up with their respective business plans, needing investment capital of $2,500 to launch them through the Community Forestry Committee. Finally, they received the requested amount of small grant from the project and invested in the following businesses: rice, cassava and soybean production.

As result of the return on investment, all these entrepreneurs received their yields:

  • cassava: around 10 tons per hectare, with a price of 450 Riels ($0.112) per kg of dried cassava
  • rice: around 2.5 tons per hectare, with a price of 1,000 Riels ($0.250) per kg
  • soybean: around 0.5 tons per hectare, with a price of 1,700 Riels ($ 0.425) per 1 kg

Before the end of the first quarter of 2016, the community managed to return the amount of the small grant, plus part of the interest. They are planning to apply for a new grant for the coming cultivation season due in April 2016.

According with the data concerning the small grant transactions in 2015, the community allocated the earned interest ($ 500) following their agreement and rules:

  • community development: 30% ($ 150)
  • community administration: 30% ($150)
  • reserving for emergency needs: 20% (100)
  •  increasing the small grant capital for business investment: 20% ($100)

According to the community leaders, the use of the small grant and skills from the project have contributed to enhancing their livelihoods, improving their financial record keeping, management skills, experiences and business planning. More importantly, through undertaking these project activities, the community has achieved the ability to learn, generate and mobilize resources, improve collaboration with local authorities to protect and manage their natural forest resources for a long term.

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