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Rice Banks Helping Fish Farmers in Cambodian Coastal Communities

18 April 2013

CAMBODIA - Fish farmers in Cambodian coastal communities have been able to improve their food security and generate additional income as a result of village rice banks established with the support of the Regional Fisheries Livelihoods Programme for South and Southeast Asia (RFLP), reports Wirya Khim, RFLP Cambodia Monitoring and Evaluation Officer.

A shortage of rice normally occurs between July and November during which time farmers are forced to borrow either rice or money from middle-traders at high interest rates.

In response, RFLP has helped three CFis from Prey Nup District in Preah Sihannouk province to
establish rice banks. This is a totally new approach for these predominantly fishing communities
despite the fact that most of the residents possess rice fields and have traditionally also cultivated
paddy rice.

However, although some of the farmers have enough rice to last them from harvest to harvest, many face shortages leaving their families with insufficient rice to eat and no rice seed to plant for the following season’s rice crop.

The aim of rice banks is to help the poor farmers by lending them rice when they need it and to help them generate additional income from selling rice when they have a surplus. Farmers who are CFi members can join the group and upon doing so need to contribute 10 kg of rice to the rice bank as their membership fee. In addition, they have to contribute a further 100 kg of rice each year to the bank. Anyone wishing to leave the rice bank and withdraw their rice can only do so after having ‘paid in’ to the bank for three years.

Members who have joined and save rice in the bank regularly are allowed to borrow rice in times of need, usually ranging from 300 – 600 kg of rice at a time, depending on how much rice is in
the bank. When they harvest their own rice paddy later, they repay the rice they have borrowed with interest. It is a slow process to build up the rice bank stocks, so the rice groups will begin paying out interest shares after the scheme has been in operation for five years.

Mrs Foet mass with her rice harvest The rice bank at CFi Baek KrangRFLP has helped CFi Banteay Brey, CFi Chumpou Khmao, and CFi Bek Krang all of which are in Preah Sihanouk Province to set up and run village rice banks. Training was provided on how to set up a rice bank, financial management and marketing. In addition, considerable emphasis was placed on group formation and strengthening as well as the development of regulations governing the banks.

Following the training the CFis themselves were engaged to construct the rice storage facilities.
Building began in early June 2012 and was completed some six weeks later. In addition, RFLP
provided each CFi with three tonnes of paddy rice as initial capital and supporting equipment such as a weighing balance, rice bags, baskets, and a tent in which to dry rice.

According to Mrs Foet Mass a rice bank member of CFi Banteay Brey, the rice bank has helped her to change cultivation practices. “This year I had lots of surplus from rice cultivation. I borrowed money from the rice bank (equal to 600 kg of rice) to buy fertilizers. As a result, I got more than double the normal yield. Last year I could only harvest 30 sacks (50 kg per sack) but this year I have been able to harvest 70 sacks.”

“Before, my family did not have enough to eat but this year we have more than enough and we have been able to sell the surplus and use the money to fix our house. Before the rice bank was launched in my village I often borrowed rice and money from middle-traders who always charged me very high interest. If I borrowed 300 kg of rice from them I had to return between 450-500kg. But if I borrow the same amount from the rice bank, I only need to return 360 kg,” she added.

Mr Ly Leang, from CFi Bek Krang echoed these comments. “Our villagers can rely on the rice bank as most of us face rice shortages from July to November.” He added that in the next five years, this rice bank would help to reduce poverty in the village.

“Being a member of the rice bank means that I don’t need to be afraid of paying high interest rates
to middle-traders. The rice bank business is very important for poor farmers in the village like me,”
added Mrs Foet.

In addition, funds generated by operating the rice banks will help support the costs of patrolling
community fisheries areas as well as other community developments in the future.

TheFishSite News Desk

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