Marked by decades of war, Cambodia has seen the level of poverty decline but inequalities persist. The food and economic crises in 2008 and 2009 led to an exodus from rural areas to the cities, predominantly the capital Phnom Penh. The migrants faced the risk of eviction from rental housing, and struggled to find employment. Many could not afford to provide their children with basic education. Unsanitary and unhealthy living conditions also affect health. One in five people in Phnom Penh lives in an informal settlement or a slum and lacks access to basic services and secure tenure. The urban poor would settle in every conceivable empty space, from courtyards to rooftops, by the side of railway tracks, and near riverbanks and swamps.
Habitat for Humanity Cambodia takes a holistic approach to housing that includes securing land tenure and developing thriving communities with access to clean and affordable water and electricity.
HFH Cambodia takes a holistic approach to housing that includes securing land tenure and developing thriving communities with access to clean and affordable water and electricity. Working in six major provinces, Habitat and its partners train families in financial literacy and livelihood development, help vulnerable groups living with HIV/AIDS, and enable informal settlers in Battambang province to have secure land tenure. HFH Cambodia also provides micro loans and construction technical assistance to enable families to build wells and latrines. Habitat programmes feature the use of environmentally-friendly soil blocks, solar-powered lights and rainwater catchment systems.
In Phnom Penh, HFH Cambodia works with relocated families to build core houses or repair or rehabilitate their houses and toilet facilities. Small loans enable families to gain access to clean water and electricity connection. Through partnerships with local non-government organizations (NGOs) which focus on people living with HIV/AIDS, HFH Cambodia provides adequate housing solutions while partners assist with health and livelihood aspects.
HFH Cambodia began working in Siem Reap province in 2007 with the support of Australia-based donor The Charitable Foundation. The three-year housing and community development project paved the way for Habitat’s expansion of its programme to improve families’ access to clean water and safe sanitation. Taking a community-led total sanitation approach, Habitat encourages behavioral changes through local leadership while providing water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) training, and water and sanitation facilities.
The Battambang project is unique in making centrally located urban land available for housing the poor. Through this project, Habitat supports families and local authorities in applying for the government’s social land concession scheme. The work involves converting state-owned land in urban areas in Battambang into privately-owned plots with secure tenure granted to families who are informal settlers. Habitat also works with partner MFIs to provide affordable loans to families to build decent homes.
Since its housing finance programme began in 2012, HFH Cambodia has formed partnerships with major microfinance institutions such as CBIRD, Theneaka Phum, and Hattha Kakseakar Limited. Institutional loans are provided to the MFIs, which are then disbursed to families for housing and home improvement loans. HFH Cambodia also gives loans to build sanitation facilities in rural areas through its partner Vision Fund Cambodia. In addition, MFIs are provided with grants that were initially funded through the Swiss Capacity Development Fund to build their capacity and develop their products.
“My new house is my new hope and my new future. My family is more secure today because we have our own house.”
-Loem Makara | Kandal, Cambodia
Loem Makara and Van Nary are young parents of a four-year-old girl. Loem has a small business at the local market in Kandal province, repairing and selling used electrical goods. Van stays home to care for their daughter Bicheka. After the couple got married in 2010, they lived in a rented storeroom in the capital Phnom Penh. They spent up to half of their monthly income of US$200 to US$300 on rent. After the couple has partnered with HFH Cambodia to build their house in Kandal, they have been able to save between US$150 and US$200 a month. Loem said: “My new house is my new hope and my new future. My family is more secure today because we have our own house.”