On 20 October 2010, Mr. Khim Sophanna and I were traveling from Phnom Penh to Mundulkiri Province with Mr. Khim Sophanna. Mr. Khim Sophanna will train about Rice Bank for 20 farmers in Sok San Commune, Koah Nheaek District. Another workshop on Rice Bank will also be held on 22 Oct 2010 at Sré Sangkum Commune. Along the road to Mondulkiri Province, I presented to him what the project has already intervened in the target village especially the previous support to rice bank establishment. Mr. Khim Sophanna mentioned that we should not be rush to set up the rice bank; it should be established step-by-step as we need to capacitate community people about basic concept and rice bank management. Rice bank is very important for the poor who are facing food insecurity; the poor can access to food while borrowing rice from their rice bank and compensate for their borrowing appropriately.

We arrived in Mundulkiri Provincial Town at 8 PM and left for Koah Nheaek district, which is far from the provincial town about 100 km at 6 AM at the early morning on 21 Oct 2010.

Mr. Khim Sophanna facilitated two training sessions on rice bank with 44 (6 women) participants at the Sok San Commune Hall and the Sré Sangkum Commune Hall. Those participants are management committee members of saving groups, management committee members of the Village based Farmer Associations, and village chiefs.  The contents mainly focused on review previous intervention of the project on rice bank, progress and achievement of rice bank in the target villages and the basic concept of rice bank.

Based on the information provided by the participants, it is able to estimate that there are approximately 30% of the total families in the village are confronting to food shortage. They borrow rice from middlemen but the interest is very high, for example if they borrow 50 kg they need to pay back 150 kg. So, the interest rate is triple time. Up to now, only two rice banks have been established.

After the training, the participants have gained further understanding about the reasons why they need to set up the rice bank. The participants commit to bring what they have learned to discuss with other farmers in their villages in order to convince them to participate in the rice bank voluntarily.

Key Points suggested during the training session:

1.     Management committee members of rice bank should be selected from the management committee members of the Village based Farmer Associations.

2.     Establishment of rice bank primarily targeting to the poor who lack of food for consumption, therefore food security analysis should be conducted firstly before starting the process of rice bank establishment. More importantly, we check whether rice bank is a real need of the poor or not.

3.     The project staff should train and select leader of rice bank in Chi Klob village to become a model farmer so that he can disseminate what they have done and learned to the other farmers in the communities.

4.     Improve recording system relating to borrow and payment of the members. All of this must be done in letter.

5.     At least 2 people keep the key of the rice bank. “It is better if compare with the rice bank that only one keep the key”, Mr. Sophanna added.

6.     There should be at least 1 woman within the management committee members of the rice bank.

7.     Organize exposure visit for representatives of farmers who are strongly interested in setting up rice bank. The project needs to select right persons to participate in the exposure visit in order to ensure its effectiveness and achieved results after the visit.