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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Department of Cooperatives (DOC) monitoring

 

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Dir. U Myo Aung conferring with PF and CDA

 

Director U Myo Aung, a senior officer of the Department of Cooperatives based in Nay Pyi Taw visited the Project office in Hpa-an and conferred with PF and CDA. The visit was part of the monitoring activities of the DOC with its partner institutions. Director U Myo Aung was accompanied by U Hsan Aung, Kayin State Cooperative Officer and U Lin Khaing, Chairperson of the Union of Cooperative Syndicates (UCS) in Hlaing-bwe Township.

 

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U Hsan Aung, Kayin State Cooperative Officer; Dir. U Myo Aung and wife; Dr. Than Naing, CDA Program Manager; Daw Myo Myo Htun, PF NTC for Cooperatives; and, U Lin Khaing, chairperson, Hlaing-bwe UCS

 

The new government decided to trim down the number of ministries resulting to the dissolution of the Ministry of Cooperatives and its departments merged with the Ministry of Commerce. The visit of the DOC officials and UCS representative was timely as the Project was preparing for the launching of the BYTM cooperative in May 11 and the holding of a national conference on June 2-3, 2016.

Signing of MoU between the Ministry of Cooperatives and PlaNet Finance

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.

20150605_103725 - CopyMr. Ron Bevacqua, PlaNet Finance Project Director with U Aung Phyu, Director General, Department of Cooperatives, Ministry of Cooperatives

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.

20150605_103844Representatives from the various Departments of the Ministry of Cooperatives, Community Development Association (CDA) and PlaNet Finance (PF) pose for posterity during the MOU signing

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.