Sustainable enterprises documented

 

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Benjamin Apra and Guilhelm Baschet in front of the Project office in Hpa-an, Kayin State

 

In support to microfinance and enterprise development, two French bikers – Benjamin Apra and Guilhelm Baschet – decided to visit 10 countries by bike and meet along the way people who have been touched by microfinance.  Dubbed Au Bout de Soie, the biking duo visited the Project areas in February 2017.  They met with some members of the cooperatives who have  borrowed and started  new enterprises.

The video-documentation of their engagement with the people in the villages are available in the internet through these  links:

https://vimeo.com/210152011

https://vimeo.com/210893365

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Closing the Project, sustaining the initiative

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The picturesque Mount Zwegabin overshadowed the Thiri Hpa-an Hotel where the closing conference of the Project was held.  The magnificent view was a suitable backdrop for participants in their colorful longyis and traditional Kayin dresses as they strut around the grand ballroom of the hotel.

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Officers and staff of PPLL                                             Officers and staff of BYTM

For two days, February 27-28, more than a hundred entrepreneurs, government officials, members of cooperatives and NGO support groups gathered and   deliberated on SME development in the context of what the Project has achieved.  The theme of the conference revolved around improving agricultural production and rural enterprises to promote sustainable development for Kayin State.

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Conference speakers, from left to right: Dr. Tin Win Kyaw, Deputy DG U Thaing Naung, Director U Myo Aung, and Dr. Than Naing

Aside from the members of the Bawa Yay Thauk Myint Cooperative and the Pwint Pwint Lin Lin Cooperative, members of the Kayin State Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KSCCI) actively participated in the discussions. Top State officials also provided inputs, including Dr. Tin Win Kyaw (State Minister for Social Services) who gave the Keynote Speech representing Chief Minister Daw Nan Khin Htwe Myint; Daw San San Yi (Director for Planning and Finance) who delivered the economic situation of Kayin state; Daw Win Win Than (Asst. Director for Planning and Finance), U Tin San (Director for Consumer Affairs) as resource persons for future directions of SME development in Kayin State.

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Conference plenary session

The Department of Cooperatives (DOC) officials from Nay Pyi Taw who attended the conference were headed by DDG Thaung Naing and other officials including Director U Myo Aung and Deputy Director U Nyan Win Maung.  They were joined by cooperative officers from Kayin and neighboring Mon State and Bago Region. Representatives from the Central Cooperative Society (CCS) were also present.

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Panel discussion on enterprise finance

Cooperatives from neighboring Thailand were also invited, but were not able to come due to some immigration problems, but that did not snuff out the idea of strengthening partnerships between them and the two cooperatives.

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Small group

The main issues in the conference were the access to financing for member-entrepreneurs and the long-term sustainability of the two cooperatives. The efforts at making the cooperatives stronger are focused on the expansion of its members to cover not only the current project areas but the whole of Hlaing-bwe Township.

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Positive PlaNet and CDA Project team members and volunteers

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Grateful acknowledgments to the funding partners – European Union (EU), French Development Agency (AFD) and PepsiCo; to government partners – Department of Cooperatives and the Kayin State government; and to the people of Hlaing-bwe Township.

 

 

Pepsico CEO visited the Project area

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Mr. Sanjeev Chadha and Mr. Mansoor Ali discussing with a weaver in Htee Lone village

Top  management of Pepsico, makers of global brand softdrinks Pepsi and 7Up, visited some Project areas in Kayin State last February 2.  Pepsico is one of the donors who contributed to the funds used in implementing the Project.  The visiting team was headed by  Mr. SANJEEV CHADHA, CEO,  Asia, Middle East and Africa; with other team members including  Mr. ADEL TAWFIK GARAS SAID, Asia-Pacific Region;  Ms. KRISTA JANE PILOT, VP Corporate Affairs;  Mr.PARINYA KITJATANAPAN,  VP Indochina; and  Mr. MANSOOR ALI, General Manager, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia.

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The Pepsico team viewing the chickenhouse of U Hla Win

The team met with Kayin Chief Minister Daw Nan Khin Htwe Myint before proceeding to the Project office for a short orientation on the current status of the Project. Later, the team visited the Htee Lone village weaving cooperative,  producer of hand-woven textile with traditional Kayin designs. The team also engaged members of the Bawa Yay Thauk Myit Cooperative involved in chicken production.  On the way back from Hlaing-bwe, the team made a quick stop with one of the community stores along the road to look at how Pepsico products are distributed and sold in the area.

Meeting the local press at the Hpa-an airport lounge culminated the visit.

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Prizes for winners of savings mobilization raffle draw

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Raffle winners during the culmination of savings mobilization campaign

 

Bawa Yay Thauk Myit Cooperative introduced its savings mobilization program last November 2016, offering regular savings and time deposit savings products to its members. Members can deposit their money to the cooperative for safekeeping, earning a modest interest of 8% per annum for a regular savings deposit and a slightly higher interest rate for the time deposit.

The program was launched with a raffle to give incentive to the members offering a brand new cellphone for the first prize; a 24-inch TV for the second prize; and 10 shares of stocks for the third prize. The campaign culminated in January 30, 2017, mobilizing 3.7 million Kyats (US$2,740.) from 64 depositors.  The savings services of the cooperative are expected to pick-up as people in the community start to appreciate the role of the cooperative in improving their lives.

Deposit services for members launched

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The  deposit services of the cooperative called member-savings operations (MSO) was formally launched last November 10, 2016, with 28 members depositing a total of 482,000. MMK on the first day. The  deposit services allowed members to avail of safekeeping services for cash, and earn a competitive rate of 8.25% a year. Members can deposit and withdraw during business hours just like formal financial intermediaries.

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To motivate members to save, the Savings Mobilization Campaign 2016 was  implemented as an incentive program. For a deposit of 20,000. MMK, a depositor will get a  ticket that will be raffled off in January 2017 with the following prizes: first prize – Mobile phone; second prize – TV; and, third prize – 10 stock certificates. Consolation prizes were also offered which includes one sack of rice for every 1 million MMK deposit and one t-shirt for the first 50 depositors.

Participants in the program have the option to continue saving  in their respective savings groups, where they can borrow funds when there are urgent needs; or they can save with the cooperative where they can also avail of the credit services for working capital for crop production or  expansion of their enterprises.

The additional funds that will be generated from the savings deposits of members will be used to finance the  credit services of the cooperative.

 

Community-based Trainors to improve agri-production and rural enterprises

 

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Saw Hein Htet Win, PP Technical Consultant on Enterprise Development facilitating during the TOT for community-based trainors

 

The technologies being employed at present are traditional, hence agricultural productivity in the rural areas are not maximized. This is one of the concerns being addressed by the Project. Aside from cooperative formation, the other half of the financial inclusion project is the enhancement of agricultural production and rural enterprises to contribute to the increase of income of people in the villages. The concept is for the cooperative to provide loans to economic activities that are profitable and can be done without subsidy from the government or development agencies.

Based on this premise, the project implemented activities to determine the enterprises that can be enhanced and financed by the cooperative. The first initiative was to do a farm systems analysis to look at current farm production activities. From the analysis, a list of agricultural commodities was made. Second, a value chain analysis was done to include current crops and livestock to determine the most profitable commodities. The third initiative was to set up demonstration farms for crops and livestock and models for non-agri enterprises.

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The savings groups in each village agreed on one commodity or enterprises that will be tested in their area. A total of 33 demonstration and modeling activities were implemented since the second half of 2015 up to the present. Demonstration farms were made for crops and livestock: mushroom, corn, beans, goat, poultry, native chicken and hogs.  Modeling of rural enterprises particularly garments retailing, concrete products, ricemill operation, rice trading, molasses trading, lumber retailing and grocery store were also done.

Despite the varied results of the modeling and demonstration farms, there are those who successfully showed how to make the commodities and the enterprises profitable.  These farmers and entrepreneurs were selected and invited to become community-based trainors. The trainors will provide training to other members of the cooperative who are interested in venturing into crops or enterprises they have demonstrated. The cooperative will require borrowers to undergo training with the community-based trainors who will be paid for the training services they provide.

The first batch of trainors completed a three-day training of trainors (TOT) conducted last October 26-28 at the Mibmyita Hotel in Hpa-an. The commodities covered included mushroom, chicken, beans, goat, hogs and corn; and an enterprise, concrete products.

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To equip the trainors and make them effective, topics discussed included concepts of adult education and use of appropriate tools and instruments in training. Participants were given time to prepare a basic training tool they presented during the last day of the training. Constructive critiquing from other participants provided guide on how to make their tool relevant and effective.

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It is envisioned that the community-based trainors will be the backbone in improving farm and rural enterprise technologies that will eventually contribute to the improved quality of products in the villages and ultimately increase income of the farmers and entrepreneurs. The training is also expected to lower the credit risk of the cooperative brought about by failure in production.

The knowledge and skills of the trainors will also be enhanced through exposures in other areas and formal training from extension schools.

Knowledge-sharing and replication

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As part of the replication of  the project, a training entitled Training Course on Rural Finance and Cooperative Formation was held last October 20-22 in Yangon, for the Community Development Association (CDA).  The main objective of the training was to share the concepts and methodologies used and the lessons learned in cooperative formation as implemented in Hlaing-bwe, Kayin State.

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The training was participated by   managers and supervisors of CDA working in other project areas particularly Ayeyarwaddy, Mandalay, Nay Pyi Taw and Rakhine. It is envisioned that the training will provide impetus to employ cooperative formation as a sustainability mechanism so that a community-based institution remains after the phase-out of CDA intervention.

The main topics covered include discussions of concepts on:  rural financial market, the financial system, framework for the formation of sustainable cooperatives and the cooperative strengthening activities.

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