The Livelihood Project provides much needed income and greater food security to 60 at-risk families (330 direct beneficiaries), through micro-enterprise. The project team, together with village and commune leaders, selects those who meet the ‘at-risk’ profile and who are dedicated to working with the AOC staff to make their micro-enterprise successful.
The target population for this project are some of the most at-risk groups in Lvea Em district. Namely, those who are identified as being HIV/AIDS affected and their families, and those living below the poverty line. Those who are classed as “under the poverty line” include widows, migrants, and victims of trafficking, all of whom have little or no access to essential assets (e.g. power and shelter; utilities such as water, sanitation, energy; land and/or
livestock). These people are at high risk for disease and untimely death, not to mention missed education for their children. In addition to lacking sufficient income, they generally have large families, with 5.5 members being the average. This at-risk group suffers greatly during the wet season floods due to lack of food security.
As the majority of project participants come from farming backgrounds, most of the micro-enterprises will be agribusinesses. This project focuses on teaching new methods of low-input, high-yield crops or livestock on small areas of land. This not only generates income, but also ensures year-round food security and income to help send their children to school as well as sustaining family health and wellbeing.
Potential beneficiaries are expected to attend business training and are mentored as they develop a business plan. Successful applicants receive a loan of between US$100 – US$500, with a 12 month time frame paid back in quarterly intervals. People who are selected to receive a loan are those who develop a clear business plan and are known to have the appropriate knowledge, skills and work ethic.
Loan beneficiaries are encouraged to form groups of five, one of whom is chosen to be the group leader and the facilitator for collecting loan repayments, business monitoring, follow-up and providing feedback to the project staff. These groups provide mutual support and encouragement as the business owners problem solve issues together and provide each other accountability in repaying their loans.
Agricultural and business training is regularly conducted on how to raise chickens and pigs as well as growing crops such as rice, corn, mushrooms, cucumber, and cabbage. The project engages experts to come and provide training on agricultural techniques and business skills, and information about controlling for disease, disasters, climate change and pest management.
Firstly, risks are clearly identified by the community and the project team. Feedback systems will provide information when problems arise and a help desk is set up to store information and emergency contacts for each issue. The person in charge also identifies community resources such as contacts for local vets, shops that sell fertiliser and other materials relevant to the businesses.
As the project is still small, the project staff in charge of training facilitation doubles as the marketing manager. This role is to work between the local market and our farmers to ensure the quality of the product meets the standard of the local market and the prices are acceptable by retailers and business people.
AOC MED project team members regularly visit and mentor each loan recipient, to help ensure they are successfully growing their business and to help with any issues. We believe in building a personal relationship with our beneficiaries, as this is the best way to find out their true needs. We often find that people most appreciate this aspect of AOC’s work – the time and care given to them by our project staff.
Loch Da lives in Beng Krom commune with her husband and three children, and they joined the Homecare program in 2010. Before joining, Loch Da’s health was not good and she spent a lot of money on different treatments with no success. After trying everything, Loch Da suspected that she might have HIV and she was very scared. However, she and her husband decided to get tested at the (former) AOC program.
After receiving the HIV+ diagnosis Loch Da’s health declined, so Homecare sent her to Chey Chom Neas hospital. Two months later she was able to go back home. In one home visit she said, “If Homecare did not help me maybe I would have kept spending money on treatments and still not know my condition. When I stayed at hospital I felt so hopeless and sad that I wanted to commit suicide, but could not do that to my husband and children. I also remembered Homecare, how they brought my family food, came to hospital to look after me and encourage me, so I decided not to end it.”
The project gave a loan to Loch Da’s family of 40,0000R (USD 100) to begin pig raising. Her husband works as a tuk tuk driver, so Loch Da looks after the pigs at home. Every day her husband’s income covers food and petrol, with the leftover money generally between 30000R to 40000R (approximately USD 10.00) and so each month they pay back their loan to the Livelihood project. Loch Da is thankful for AOC’s help: “My husband and I are very happy and want to thank the Homecare team who continue to work with us on our business. Now my pigs are really big and their value has increased. Many thanks again for visiting us and giving us some suggestions to continue making a better future for our family.”