A busy fish market springs up each afternoon along a muddy pathway in front of
Village "D". By the early evening, the women who were selling fish might be
doing some other business, roasting bananas, or perhaps making rice
"We tell them don't be shy... be strong," says ACLEDA team leader
So Phonnary, "now all the women have got this kind of confidence."
is "micro" money-lending Khmer-style.
Rural lenders ACLEDA (Association
of Cambodian Local Economic Development Agencies) has lent three million riel
($1,200) to this one poor village of 460 households on the outskirts of Phnom
Almost every stallholder hawking food or produce or clothing has
borrowed a few thousand riel or more from ACLEDA, each of them a member of a
"borrowers group" that guarantees the repayments of each other.
hasn't been a single default in repayment. People have borrowed three or four or
more times in loan "cycles."
Women - ninety five out of every one hundred
ACLEDA borrowers is a woman - have escaped grinding poverty here and are now
making a bit of money, sending kids to school and providing important support to
husbands who might be out driving cyclos or motos, or to sons selling
Many of the women are the sole income earners.
only people losing out are the traditional money lenders who run the bigger
grocery-type shops across the streets, who look across on these fledgling
enterprises with arms crossed and wearing a frown.
ACLEDA provide not
only money for new businesses to the poor, but also training in marketing,
keeping accounts, business advise, ideas and opportunities, and even family
planning, motivation, and savings skills.
The decision of who to lend to
however, and who not to, comes quite firmly on the recommendation from village
chief Vannay Themongtero, who runs her beauty parlor on the street front. There
is nothing that goes on in the village that Vannay does not know
"Vannay tells us who would be good to lend to, who has got good
business ideas, and what families do nothing or just play cards and gamble,"
The mood is catching: Moal Son is an old widow who
borrowed 10,000 riel ($4) for her cake and noodle stall, and she gossips to
ACLEDA trainers about a new idea in chicken porridge ("a market niche," says
Phonnary); other women tell how they are making up to 40,000 riel ($16) a day in
And everyone, without exception, says of course they
always have that concern that they have to repay the loan each
ACLEDA main lending however is in US dollars to small
Math Yousos, 45, who lost both legs in a car accident, is
now the owner of a thriving motorbike repair shop, thanks to two loans totaling
He's a good mechanic, and the engine-driven compressor he brought
to start off his expanded shop is in better condition now than when he got it
two years ago.
Business is now so busy that sometimes "I can't keep up,"
Now earning $120 a month, he can afford to send all his five
children to school.
Two years ago he struggled to have enough money for
food. A friend suggested he go to ACLEDA after becoming worried as to how the
Yousos family could survive.
Yousos said he always worried about repaying
the loan. Though he had plans for further expansion he thought himself now too
old and his health too poor.