"Know more about MDGs" Vol. 1
Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
Food stall project in Steung Meanchey, Cambodia
By Ms. Miyuki ASANO (Kikuna Church, Yokohama Diocese)
< Steung Meanchey District >
Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, is rapidly developing. Foreign enterprises are very active and high-class residential area and high-rise buildings for commercial facilities and hotels are coming out. The number of cars has increased rapidly and there are traffic jams everywhere. We can often see luxury cars such as Lexus. There are also fancy cafes and restaurants but they seem to be only for foreigners and rich Cambodians and a different world for most of Cambodian people. The benefits of the development go to those with power and foreigners and most of the nations are left behind. There are more poor people who came from countryside to find jobs.
People in Russey Village, Steung Meanchey whom JLMM is supporting are also out of benefits of the development and live in a bad environment selling recyclable items from refuge dump. People have sometimes to borrow money from loan sharks for wedding or to pay medical fees when they get sick as there is no essential welfare service in Cambodia. As a result they have no choice but to live hand-to-month. It is their severe reality that children are considered as labor power.
They were formerly farmers but they could not earn enough money to support their family because the agriculture technology was backward and the water for farming was lacking. They came to cities to work but it is very difficult to find a job for those without special skill or educational background as the country is not industrialized other than sewing industry. After all they work in a refuge dump. The refuge dump is the income source for many poor people in Phnom Penh.
JLMM started "Food stall project" for them in 2007. We rent food stalls and provide the business knowledge to those interested. It aims that their life will be stabilized by the new job which is healthy and sanitary replacing the job in the refuge dump. The food stall business requires a hard work but only little capital and no special skill and it produces an income to support families. They go to markets and schools to sell inexpensive sweets with good profit and "rotti" which is a popular sweet in Thailand.
Food stall business is, however, not easy for former farmers who are scared of the big city. They have to serve strangers and sometimes get scolded by car drivers, "Get out!" Those who got complaints about their dirty hands from customers lost confidence and went back to the refuge dump saying that they felt comfortable over there. In sad case some man did not bring home the money earned but spent it to play outside and quitted the food stall as his family opposed the business.
The sales drop down during hot season and school holidays. They tried to sell shaved ice and coke but not many people liked to continue because their stalls became heavy and hard to move. Some of them visit houses to build good relations with their customers and they have more sales. But those without good communication skill went back to the refuge dump. People once caught in a vicious cycle of poverty can hardly come out.
Five people, however, continue the food stall business positively. Some of the men who had failed to find a job in the city became dependent on alcohol. They sometimes get hangover and do not work. Contrarily women are working really hard for their families. They are strong and shape their destinies standing the alcohol dependence and DV of their husbands. They were poor and could not complete their primary education due to the long-lasting civil war but they acquired the wisdom and strength to live their lives. Maybe because of their children they have power and energy to deal with difficulties and problems, and it gives us hope in our hard time.
Mrs. Hon (41 years old) who started the food stall in December is also hardworking woman. Her husband died ten years ago and she has brought up three children by herself. Without special skill and education it was not easy for her to find the job. She was making her living by picking up recyclable items and selling sweets and porridge. She could not afford to give proper education to her children. Her eldest daughter is in her first year of secondary school at the age of seventeen and her second daughter yet to go to primary school at ten. Mrs. Ho says smiling, "I cannot sleep in the night when I think about my children." but she never gives up and goes forward even in hopeless situations. She is scared of the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh and takes the long way to her business area avoiding the traffic jams. Seeing her effort to earn as much as she can, I realize that human is strong in nature.
"Food stall project" itself cannot "Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger." We operate the project because we like to help those who want to get out of poverty and make a step to a new life and women who suffer from their husbands' alcohol dependence and gambling. There are unexpected expenditures of medical fees for their children and so on and their lives have not hundred percent improved yet but we want to understand their dreams and hopes and bring up their potentials.
"Food stall project" will, however, not grow big in future because it is difficult to find enough space for food stalls in Phnom Penh. So we are considering "Ice sales" which does not require the stall. We will follow the Japanese "Akita Baba-hera ice" system where the sales persons are fetched to the sales points by a car. We wish to offer jobs to more women.
* Draft of a new project
A trial project has started here in Steung Meanchey. We used JICA's system "Advisors-sending to strengthen NGOs". The evaluation specialists were sent to Steung Meanchey in August, 2010 and we reviewed our activities and shared the awareness with them. Those who were involved with the recent projects were well motivated and in the workshop held in November with staffs from Tokyo we drew the plan to upgrade the projects with their passion and the good result of the evaluation.
First we interviewed 104 families who made their living by selling recyclable items in the refuge dump and based on its result we studied problems and achievements presented by the staffs and the teachers of the literacy education to plan the future activities. The research shows that most of the families borrowed money from loan-sharks because of their sickness and weddings, mothers hardly took a regular checkup before and after their childbirth, many people got ascaris, they did not have enough knowledge of disease prevention and only few children went to secondary school. The staff clearly understood that upgrading the residents' lives are strongly connected to health, income and education, families largely depended on women's work for income, housekeeping and child-rearing and women play very important roles in their families.
Many residents spend a lot of time for gambling and drinking in spite of having debts. Their houses have leaking of rain and they stay in musty mats and have skin diseases. Inside of the houses are untidy with no proper furniture. They do not have custom to use trash basket and flies are all over the place. People eat rice covered in flies with their fingers. Seeing such lives the staffs point out the problems that mothers have a lack of the knowledge on health and sanitary and the access to the social information. The residents can prevent diseases if they make a little effort to improve their living environment by cleaning their rooms and making it custom to wash their hands. We have realized that their lives would not improve by cash-income-producing project unless women would improve their housekeeping skill. We came to the conclusion that we hold the seminars for women on basic knowledge of family affairs from now on to change their attitude.
I could study the residents' problems with the staffs and discuss about the future activities. It is vital important that the staffs themselves produce the projects for their own future and now they have very positive attitude toward the activities. We will hold the workshop regularly to upgrade their abilities and hope that the projects will be operated all by themselves one day.
We will present "Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education" in the next issue. The article is also on Cambodia.