Began in Vientianne 1998
By 2004 expanded to 6 Cities in Laos
Through a horizontal exchange process with communities in neighbouring Thailand, ACHR has helped develop a savings and credit network in Laos now comprising 6 cities and 6,000 families (in yr 2003).
More than a Savings Network – it has developed into a PARTNERSHIP with government and opened a voice for Lao urban poor groups to participate strongly in their own development process. …. using savings as a tool to mobilize women and community organising.
Before the savings started:
District officials ( men) rarely listened to urban poor women
Problems existed with informal money lenders
There were problems with income lelvels, particularly of seasonal variations over the year not conforming to expenditure cycles.
Savings groups in the Women’s Union used savings for its own sake, not as a mobilising force for holistic community development
Fortunately. Land & Housing was not a particulalry high level issue as the Lao government ( unlike most Asian governments) still sees land as having social value rather than a commodity to make the elites richer. – although take-overs by corporate farming interests was a concern.
Phase 1: 1998 – 2002
The development of small scale savings and loans with a focus on basic needs and income generation. Strong internal savings and loans were developed, but on a small scale in Vientiane, the capital city.
Phase 2: 2002 onwards
ACHR supported the development of a Community Development Fund (CDF) mechanism known as Pak Ngum Fund. This was to encourage local capacity and visions for community-wide development planning. It became a network beyong savings.