Fellow Since 2001
Sugar Palm Occupation Development Project, Songkla
This profile was prepared when Samart Sakawee was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2001.
The New Idea
Samart is using the community savings group, an established economic development tool, not only to provide income for rural villagers but also to address broader needs. He has modified the structure and management of the savings group to encourage greater civic responsibility and to guard against the corruption and mismanagement that have toppled savings groups in neighboring villages. Members obtain small loans to start individual initiatives, as they would in any savings group. In addition, though, a portion of the group's earnings is used to launch a community business. By training village women to assume management roles in both the savings group and the community business, Samart is enabling them to gain confidence, self-esteem, and business acumen. Because many women lack formal education, the training they receive in basic accounting, management, and marketing earns them respect from their spouses and communities and changes their lives dramatically. In addition to assuming responsibilities in their own community, they train women in neighboring villages to establish savings groups. Samart hopes that his model will eventually serve as an important stimulus for more effective environmental planning and resource management in rural villages as well.