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.

 

 

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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.

 

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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Focus on the improvement of members

img_9170Participants role-playing the conduct of Cooperative Membership Education Seminar (CMES)

Twenty-seven participants attended the Training Course on Cooperative Membership Development Course conducted on September 21-23, 2016 at the Mibamyita Hotel. The course is the last in the series of Cooperative Formation Courses (CFC) designed to equip leaders and the staffs of the cooperative on the basic knowledge and skills of cooperative operations. The course is aimed at developing information and education materials that can be used to provide continuous cooperative education to its members. One of the expected outputs is the formulation of a Cooperative Membership Education Seminar (CMES).

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Resource Person Edwin Peraz  facilitating a session, assisted by NTC Myo Myo Htun

The CMES is the basic course given to applicants for membership. It contains topics on the general principles and practices of cooperatives, history of the cooperative movement, basic statistics on the status of the cooperative and the programs and services it is providing. The formulation of CMES is an essential part of the cooperative’s membership expansion program as new members from outside existing savings groups are now being accepted.

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Cooperative Audit Training conducted

The officers and management staff of  Bawa Yay Thauk Myint Cooperative participated in the  Training on Cooperative Audit organized and conducted by  Positive Planet last August 24-26 at the Mibamyita Hotel in Hpa-an. The training is part of the series of Cooperative Formation Courses (CFC) designed to strengthen the operations of cooperatives.

IMG_8888 Resource Person Olive de Guzman explaining cash audit methods

The audit training was designed  to enhance the skills of the members of the Audit Committee within the Board of Directors as the financial activities of the cooperative are building up. The cooperative released the first set of loans last July and the second batch was approved by the Board and waiting for release. The cooperative is also slated to start its savings mobilization program within the month of September.

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The training covered topics such as basic principles of audit, internal and external audit process and the people in the cooperative responsible for audit. The theoretical discussions were completed by workshops where members of the Audit Committee practiced doing cash count, review of loan documents and role-play in doing field validation.

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Other participants included staff of the Community Development Association (CDA) and representatives from Pwint Pwint Lin Lin Coop in the adjacent sub-township of Paing Kyone.

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Conference on Cooperative Formation a Success!

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The formation of Bawa Yay Thauk Myit Cooperative (BYTM) is one of the highlights of the Project.  It has been proven that the methodologies used in the formation are effective, and cooperatives can be formed through a bottoms-up approach. Another indicator of its success is the fact that the people in the villages indeed have savings and these savings can be mobilized given the right motivation and methods.

Part of the Project activities is knowledge sharing where results would be imparted to other institutions that would be benefitted by the results. In this context the Conference on Cooperative Formation for Sustainable Financial Inclusion was held last June 2-3 at the Thingaha Hotel, Nay Pyi Taw.

DSC_0084Director General U Aung Phyu of the Department of Cooperatives addressing the participants to the conference

The conference was attended by officers of the Department of Cooperatives headed by Director General U Aung Phyu. State and Division level Cooperative Officers attended and were joined by officers from the head office in Nay Pyi Taw.  The Kayin State Minister of Agriculture represented the Kayin State government. Officers and staff of the Community Development Association (CDA) and the members of the Board of Directors of BYTM Cooperative together with the staff also attended.

Among the donor agencies represented during the conference were the European Union Delegation (EU), the main funder of the Project; the Livelihood Trust Fund (LIFT); and the Deutsche Gesselschaft fur Internationale Zussamenarbeit (GIZ). Several international non-government organizations (INGOs) also participated in the conference to include Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), Asian Confederation of Credit Union (ACCU) and Malteser International.

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Panel session speakers answering questions from the participants

Local NGOs included Phyu Sin Saydana Action Group (PSSAG), an NGO based in Hpa-an, Peace Winds Japan from Ayeyawardy Division and Pwint Pwint Lin Lin Cooperative from Paing Kyone sub-township.

Technical experts from PlaNet Finance presented the main topics, while CDA and the officers and staff of BYTM expressed themselves during panel sessions.  Discussions were focused on the effectiveness of savings mobilization, the cost of the formation process which is necessary to determine replication activities and the strengthening of the cooperative.

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Participants to the conference

TRAINING ON ADVANCED SAVINGS MOBILIZATION CONDUCTED

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The basic savings mobilization tool was used to motivate people to save and pool their savings in informal and small groups in the villages. Since the formation started in April 2015, more than a hundred savings groups were formed in the 33 villages covered by the Project, mobilizing almost $50,000 savings. Of the total savings, more than $10,000 were already transformed as share capital to the Bawa Yay Thauk Myit Cooperative (BYTM) .

With the launching of the BYTM Cooperative and its positioning as the financial intermediary in Hlaing-bwe Township, the capacity of the cooperative to be the depository of savings in the villages of the Township was enhanced. The Training on Member-Savings Operation (MSO) was conducted last May 25-27, 2016  to enable the cooperative to provide savings services where members can deposit and withdraw money during business hours.

The MSO is a system that makes the cooperative function like a bank. Members can deposit their money for safekeeping at the cooperative and withdraw whenever they need it. They  will not be bothered with their stash of cash hidden in their homes with the cooperative providing easy access to their money.

To enable the cooperative to handle the complexities of daily deposits and withdrawals, the topics covered the following: systems and procedures together with the forms to be used, the required accounting system, office lay-out and security, pricing of savings products, computing the average daily balance (ADB) which is the basis for imputing interest rate on savings, managing liquidity reserve and the funds inflow-outflow management (FIOM) to monitor the movement of cash.