Wildlife Alliance has been working in the village of Sovanna Baitong since 2004. In that time, the organization has helped the villagers learn about modern agriculture methods, including crop rotation and drip irrigation, assisted in the creation of the Agriculture Association and the implementation of the Agriculture Store and Nursery, and helped to set up schools and health care facilities. So far, the success of these initiatives speak for themselves – the villagers have seen an increase of 300% in their income. But eight years on, the focus of Wildlife Alliance’s efforts in Sovanna Baitong have shifted. Now it is important to work on capacity building and community management so that members of the community take on more and more responsibility for the administration of their neighbors and environment.
Recently, there have been major strides made towards this goal. Important components of the infrastructure in Sovanna Baitong are the Community Fund and Micro-Credit System. Wholly managed by members of the Agriculture Association, the Community Fund already has over $5,500 in the bank in the form of compulsory savings and another $2,300 in voluntary savings on top of that. This money will lay the foundation for the future operations of the village. The Micro-Credit System allows families to diversify their income-generation activities. In 2011 alone, 22 families availed themselves of new loans to start small businesses such as motorbike repair shops, fish farming, and produce trade businesses. This entrepreneurial spirit not only brings increased energy to the village, but it helps Sovanna Baitong to grow into the regional hub for agricultural production that it is already becoming.
Further development of the educational opportunities and extension of health care services have also helped Sovanna Baitong to grow. Nearly 300 children are in consistent attendance at school and a pre-school program for children ages 3 to 5 has recently been implemented. One of the main goals for families in the community is to keep their children in school longer than they themselves were able to. The village’s 14 health volunteers also increased their training so that they can handle non-emergent issues ranging from pre- and post-natal care to immunization awareness. The community also brought in a group of ex-pat dentists to perform free dental checks and extractions for the whole village.
While increased agricultural production and income has been and continues to be important for the village of Sovanna Baitong, creating new opportunities, a more robust community life, and increasing capacity for community management are the vital next steps in the evolution of the village.
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Communications and Finance Field Liaison