Pongro Village Community Projects
Project Enlighten & The Village of Pongro
Project Enlighten has developed a positive relationship with team member Mr. Sim Sao’s community, Pongro Village in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Together we’ve worked long and hard to develop a program that will result in sustainable resolutions to simple challenges the community faces. The greatest resolutions come from within a community, as only they have the power to discover the right way to resolve the challenges they meet in a way that works with their cultural and social considerations.
This program contributes to the development of social capital, human resources at the local level, and community physical resources. One of the first steps toward sustainability came with Project Enlighten providing “seed money,” for the Pongro Agricultural Bank. This program is part of the establishment of long-term sustainability of rural communities while placing social responsibility in the hands of the communities with whom we work.
Progress Agricultural BankDuring the 2011 agricultural season in Cambodia, flooding devastated rural crops and communities were left with little to no food. Project Enlighten Team member Mr. Sim Sao and his village identified this community challenge, came to us with a need, and proposed a simple resolution to this challenge through the creation of a vital rice bank program: Pongro Village’s ‘Progress Agriculture Bank,’ (PAB). Project Enlighten has provided the “seed money,” for this community project just outside of Siem Reap, Cambodia, to help impoverished villagers have access to rice during critical shortage periods (August-November). During these times of rice shortage or natural disaster, villagers can rely on the PAB for rice, food and seed.
Families in rural Cambodia regularly face the effects of drought and flooding. This is why it is vital to find ways of making sure families have access to food all year. Rice is an essential staple to a Cambodian’s diet; a six-member family requires 5.5 pounds of rice per day to sustain health and life – for the poor, this is a huge quantity. Having access to a rice bank or storage of rice kept for emergency purposes reduces the work of women who would otherwise have a labor-intensive task of searching for food during the periods of rice shortage.
As Mr. Sim Sao’s describes, “PAB provided rice with very small interest rates. We worked with poor families so that they can survive, living sustainably into the future…The villages members divide up the rice in the bank, each family gets around 100kg to 200kg each, depend on size of their family. Then in November, when the rice harvest is produced, they pay back the rice they owed to PAB together with 10% interest or another 10kg of rice.”
Previously, villagers borrowed rice from private lenders with high interest rates. Through their participation in PAB, they can borrow rice with a low-interest rate. In addition, the interest paid remains in the hands of the community. Especially for poor and vulnerable families, the rice bank helps prevent them from falling into debt due to the high interest rate charged by private moneylenders. The objective of PAB is not only to help the community of Pongro Village during periods of food scarcity, but also to mobilize financial resources for community projects voted on by the village. This means the community can identify and resolve not only emergency relief challenges but also invest in educational programs, access to clean water and medicine if needed.
The rice bank will have a broad impact on the life of its members and on the community as a whole. The rice bank not only helps to ensure food security, but it contributes to the development of social capital, human resources at the local level, and community physical resources; this is what makes this Project Enlighten sponsored program with PAB so important for the long-term sustainability of rural communities, all the while leaving social responsibility in the hands of the communities with whom we partner. The greatest resolutions come from within a community, as only they have the power to discover the right way to resolve the challenges they meet in a way that works with their cultural and social considerations. What we love most about this program is that it is already self sustaining and does not require further funding at this time.
PA SAO SCHOOL, Let Education Be A Dream Come TrueMr. Sim Sao built a free-education school in his village and has staffed it with both international volunteers and peer mentors from the local high school. Our donors can rest assured knowing they have helped these young people in Pongro Village begin to have a better education.
Sao was able to secure significant funding from other organizations to enhance his curriculum and construct bathrooms, a water well and a three room school house. We are quite proud of Sao and his accomplishments thus far; at this time Project Enlighten is not collecting funds on behalf of this school.