A tractor-hailing app, an app providing agricultural information on market, prices, weather and other important information and an app linking agri-producers to financial service providers are some of digital technologies featured in the forum Modernizing Myanmar’s Agriculture through Innovation. 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 cooperative.
The cooperative formation project was implemented by the Phyu Sin Saydanar Action Group (PSSAG) in partnership with ACCESS Advisory in 30 villages in northern Hpa-an township, Kayin State. The initiative was supported by USAID and 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 post-conflict area, the cooperative which is undergoing registration process is poised to provide lending services that will energize the local economy.
Zwe Kabin Myae is not the first community-based cooperative formed in Hpa-an. In 2016, an European Union (EU) project facilitated the formation of the Bawa Yay Tauk Myint Coop in Hlaing-bwe. The coop however was greatly affected by the 2018 floods and is facing organizational challenges. Another coop, the Pwint Pwint Lin Lin in Paing Kyone sub-township was formed as a result of the project implemented by the Adventist Relief and Development Agency (ADRA). It 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 net income it has generated from its operations.
The Karunas Mission Social Solidarity (KMSS), the development arm of the Catholic Church in Myanmar partnered with New Humanity, an Italian funding agency to pilot test formation of savings and credit unions in selected dioceses in 2017. It has successfully formed cooperatives in three areas.
One cooperative is in Shwe Bo Township under the Mandalay diocese, currently undergoing registration. It has generated 9.9 million kyats capital from its initial 172 members. Two other cooperatives were registered and have started providing savings and lending services in their respective areas. As of February, data showed an aggressive drive to extend services to its members. The first is in Nyaung Don, Yangon diocese where 10.2 million kyats share capital was mobilized and a total of 5 million kyats loans were already 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 formation of self-reliant and sustainable cooperatives exhibited the fact that given the right methodologies, the people can be empowered to initiate development activities that addresses their needs. Help and support from outside of the community will be more relevant if these are matched with what is really needed and the people’ capacity to decide for their own future should not be set aside.