Cambodia: Solving Hunger Through Mobile Cash Transfer

To reach the poorest with direct assistance in a safe, convenient, scalable and sustainable way, WFP Cambodia is now introducing a new innovative hi-tech cash scholarship transfer pilot programme through a mobile banking system in partnership with Angkor Microfinance of Kampuchea (AMK), a local microfinance institution. This is the first time for vulnerable Cambodians to receive cash assistance – that would enable them to purchase food and other basic necessities of their choice – through mobile phones.

KAMPONG THOM PROVINCE – One sunny afternoon in June, about 60 children and their guardians gathered in Salavisai Primary School in Prasat Balaing District.  They’ve come to receive their cash scholarship assistance from WFP. It’s a new project, and they know that in order to be part of it, the students would have to attend their classes regularly, at least 80 percent of the time.

A 70-year-old woman, Khiev Chan is among the 2,969 people from poor households in Kampong Thom who are benefiting from WFP’ s new cash scholarship. She lives with her two orphaned granddaughters whose parents were killed in a mining explosion four years ago. Together with Samnang, one of her granddaughters, they attentively wait at the distribution site for their turn to collect the cash.

“Today we received 60,000 Riels (approximately US$15.00) and we will buy food,” said Chan who will manage the money for her family.

                                                      Elderly woman and her young daughter receiving cash from WFP Staff                    Khiev Chan and her granddaughter, Samnang, at the WFP Cash Scholarship distribution site at Salavisai Primary School.

Besides improving access to food choices for the poor and vulnerable households, beneficiaries also use a portion of the cash to buy essential non-food items as well.  “I am very happy that this year I have money to buy textbooks and other school supplies for Samnang”, Chan added.

In the past, the pressure of poverty led Chan’s family to borrow money from money lenders. In order to survive during the dry season, Samnang is sometimes forced to absent herself from class so she can help the family by working for their neighbor’s paddy field. “Since she’s been admitted to the cash scholarship programme, Samnang has been attending school regularly”, Chan emphasized. Samnang has a strong wish for her future – to become a teacher.  “I want to finish primary school and pursue further education to become a teacher,” Samnang shared. 

Hai Hokly, school principal of Salavisai Primary School said students under the scholarship programme are more eager to learn than ever before. Their school attendance rate increased significantly from 70 percent to 90 percent. 

WFP’s Cash Scholarship Programme provides a sum of money equivalent to the local market value of the Food Scholarship programme, currently valued at 20,000 Riels (about US$5.00) per month. This pilot hi-tech mobile cash transfer is implemented for the 2012/13 school year in 217 primary schools, targeting to the most vulnerable children from grades four to six.

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and WFP expect this cash scholarship’s pilot method of disbursement through a mobile banking system to fit into the Government’s planned design for a national primary school scholarship policy.