Lak Sam is a 54 year-old farmer who lives with her husband and 7 family members, including 2 children, 2 grandchildren, 1 niece and 1 nephew in Phlung village, located about 12 km from Siem Reap provincial town. She is currently a Community Facilitator with Banteay Srei and is in charge of the saving and credit group for her village.
Lak Sam owns half a hectare of a rice field which is located about 4 km from her house. “Before, we did not have anything besides a half hectare of rice field and a small house. We were very poor. Sometimes I could not find even rice and salt for my kids to eat,” she said.
Her husband used to be a soldier and he could not earn anything, except a very low government salary. Now, he works as a casual worker for APSARA Authority which earns approximately USD 45 per month.
Lak Sam proudly said that over several years working in her capacity as Community Facilitator for the savings and credit group, she has changed a lot and expressed the significant changes she has experienced. “I used to be very shy with NGO staff and hide away from them but now I feel empowered I feel comfortable and happy around them. I know I can record the expenditure and income successfully for the savings and credit group and I am not scared of communicating with the local authority like I was before. Most of all, I can now earn income to feed my family.”
“Now, I have 10 pigs, more than 50 chickens, and more than 100 cat fish in my pond,” she said happily.
Lak Sam joined as a Cow Bank member of the IWDA project in 1998. Later on, she became a Community Credit Group Leader of Banteay Srei. “Banteay Srei gave me a good opportunity. I was so afraid that I could not lead the Credit Group. I got a lot of support from Banteay Srei staff otherwise I could not do this work,” she said. As this is voluntary work, she had to ask for permission from her husband. With encouragement and awareness-raising in the communities from Banteay Srei, her husband agreed to let her become the Savings and Credit Group Leader. She received many training sessions from Banteay Srei including those focusing on agriculture techniques, recording for the saving and credit group, advocacy, decentralization and de-concentration, and domestic violence.
She has been involved in community development and has provided active support in advocacy work. “I shared information and helped to collect thumbprints from community people, I met APSARA Authority a few times to negotiate for people to build houses on their lands, I participated in the People Assembly without fear, and I shared my knowledge and skills about pig raising to many families in my village,”
In addition to acquiring technical skills, Lak Sam was able to benefit from the options available through the Community Saving and Credit Group. “I borrowed 1,300,000 Riels (Approximately USD 325) for 3 months to buy pigs and fodders. It helped me. I would not have the livestock and tools ttoday without all the support,” she said.
Her current sources of income are from selling pigs (one pig bought at the price of USD 40 and sold on for USD 100 after a period of 4 month), selling chickens (in 6 months she can sell 1 kg = USD 3.25), yield from her rice field (500 kg per year which can last for 2-3 months) and fish raising which she started recently.