Fish paste, used to make fish sauce, is a staple in every Cambodian household. But small-scale fisherfolk are often forced to sell their fish paste for less money because they lack access to larger markets, have to take out loans for equipment, and are competing with larger fishing boats that have moved into their areas. In Kroko District in Pursat Province this is also true. “Before this fish processing group was formed, we sold our fish paste to middlemen at a cheaper price because we took out a loan from them,” said by Sophy, 42 years old, a fisher folk in a floating village.
Debt was identified by the women’s group as a major factor in their inability to seek higher incomes. To address this issue, Rural Friend for Community Development (RFCD) and ActionAid worked with the women’s group in 2007 to develop a savings scheme and also provided some capital to buy improved fishing materials and supplies for the group. In 2018, RFCD continued to support the group with revolving funds to buy more fishing materials. Around 30 members also now support the group by paying into a pooled fund which benefits all members.
Another partner present in the community, Conservation International (CI), also supported the group in 2014 by providing additional funding (to the sum of 12,000,000 Riel) to help the group establish a business. CI has been working on fishery conservation in the Tonle Sap Lake and River and saw the value of the women’s group. CI also provided training to the women’s group on fish processing and continued to strengthen the capacity of the saving group committee. And convinced of the good leadership of the group, the provincial Fishery Department of Pursat provided 21 items for fish processing to the groups.
With their increased income, the group was able to purchase a space to process the fish on their own. The women’s group has strengthened the member’s ability to increase their income, which has positive impacts on their families and community. Women are empowered to sell their fish products for a fair price, and have been able to cut out the middlemen by starting their own business.