With the view toward empowering community organizations in rural areas to contribute to local economic development and peace and reconciliation, on 5 June a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the Ministry of Cooperatives and PlaNet Finance which aims to form and develop financial cooperatives to support value chain development in rural Hlaing-bwe Township.
In his address during the signing ceremony, which took place in Nay Pyi Taw, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Cooperatives, U Kyaw Ngwe, stated that, “I strongly believe that this project can potentially support the development of Kayin State. I urge both the Cooperative Department and PlaNet Finance to closely cooperate and coordinate with each other to contribute to the development of Kayin State.” He also expressed satisfaction with the component that will ensure all the technologies and the lessons from the project will be transferred to the Department of Cooperatives and the cooperative societies for replication and possible implementation in other areas.
In his remarks, PlaNet Finance’s project director, Mr. Ron Bevacqua, emphasized that the project intends “to empower our beneficiaries in Kayin State by facilitating the creation of ‘people centered’ community organizations owned and managed by the beneficiaries themselves.” Mr. Bevacqua stressed that strong cooperatives providing appropriate, needs-based financial services will be the foundation for the empowerment of the project’s beneficiaries.
He further made it clear that, “access to financial services alone does not reduce poverty. Access only creates possibilities. What is important is how people use those financial services to take advantage of the opportunities available to them.” Therefore, sustainable community development should include activities aimed improving capacities of the people. It is in that context that the project is, “going beyond simply facilitating the provision of financial services. We will also provide financial education and entrepreneurship training, as well as working with the Department of Small-Scale Industries to provide coaching and mentoring to help our beneficiaries find new opportunities to invest in their farms or enterprises.”
The project is being implemented by PlaNet Finance in partnership with the Community Development Association (CDA), a local development organization. The rapid rural appraisal of the 35 participating villages in Hlaing-bwe township has been completed and the current activities of the project includes developing the project baseline data, organized 60 savings groups using the Rapid Savings Mobilization Technique (RSMT), and farm systems analysis (FSA) to determine crops and agricultural activities that can be supported to increase income of the people in the community. It is expected that the cooperative will be registered before the end of 2015.