Empowering people through cooperatives in Myanmar

A tractor-rental app, an app providing information on markets, prices, weather, and other topics of importance to farmers, and an app linking agri-producers to financial service providers were some of digital technologies featured in the forum “Modernizing Myanmar’s Agriculture through Innovation” held on March 18, 2019.

Organized by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the forum also featured non-digital technologies. Two case studies on enterprise development were presented, including a community development activity – formation of a savings and credit cooperative – by ACCESS Advisory.

From 2018-19, ACCESS partnered with a local NGO, the Phyu Sin Saydanar Action Group (PSSAG), to implement a USAID-funded cooperative formation project in 30 villages in northern Hpa-an township, Kayin State. The initiative resulted in the formation of the Zwe Kabin Myae Coop with 600 members and an initial share capital of 5.1 million kyats (US$3,400.). Located in a remote post-conflict area, the cooperative is currently undergoing registration process and is poised to provide lending services that will energize the local economy.

Zwe Kabin Myae is not the first community-based cooperative ACCESS formed in Hpa-an. Starting in 2016, a European Union (EU) project facilitated the formation of the Bawa Yay Tauk Myint Coop in Hlaing-bwe. The coop was greatly affected by the 2018 floods and is currently facing organizational challenges. However, another coop, the Pwint Pwint Lin Lin in Paing Kyone sub-township that ACCESS formed at the end of a project implemented by the Adventist Relief and Development Agency (ADRA), has sustained its savings and lending operations with 11 million kyats capital. In its second general assembly meeting later this month, it has declared dividends pay-out to members from the 2.5 million kyats net income it has generated from its operations.

In other parts of the country, ACCESS has worked with the Karunas Mission Social Solidarity (KMSS), the development arm of the Catholic Church in Myanmar, in partnership with New Humanity, an Italian funding agency, to form savings and credit cooperatives in three dioceses since 2017.

Two of the three cooperatives have already been registered by the Cooperative Department and have legal status. The first is in Nyaung Don, Yangon diocese, where 10.2 million kyats share capital was mobilized and a total of 5 million kyats in loans has already been released, benefiting 125 borrowing members. The second registered cooperative is in Tar Baung, Pathein diocese, where the cooperative was able to generate 74.5 million kyats share capital from 662 members. It has extended 55.2 million kyats volume of loans to 312 members. The third cooperative, in Shwe Bo Township in the Mandalay diocese, is currently undergoing registration. It has generated 9.9 million kyats capital from its initial 172 members.

The formation of self-reliant and sustainable cooperatives shows that, given the right methodologies, the it is possible to empower people so that they can initiate development activities that addresses their needs. Assistance from outside the community is often necessary, but it must match with what is really needed and the people’ capacity to decide for themselves their own future.

Click the link to learn more about ACCESS’s work on Coop formation in post-conflict Myanmar

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