Project Kalaymyo

Location and Population

Kalaymyo (population 400,000) is the area SEAM has focussed on. This is the principal city in a fertile rural part of Sagaing Division, close to the border with Chin State in the northwest of Myanmar and about a thousand kilometres from Yangon, the capital.  Much of the population belongs to the ethnic Chin group and Kalaymyo is the gateway to the northern Chin State.

This isolated area has about half a million people, mostly involved in subsistence farming or industry.  Development has been slow due to the isolation of the region, which has very poor road access to the next significant settlement Mandalay, which is more than thirteen hours away. Kalaymyo is served by a local domestic airline to an airport very centrally located to the city.

Why SEAM is in Kalaymyo

Due to its isolation, the region is far away from the commercial influences of the rest of Myanmar and there is little employment opportunity locally for the people in this district, so that many families live a very subsistence lifestyle.

Local moneylenders are sometimes available to offer short term loans to people wanting to continue their business, or to meet family crisis, but they usually charge exorbitant interest to borrow money.  The lack of options to get small loans meant that sometimes desperately impoverished people are usually unable to get ahead. There have been few other alternatives and most of the profit from any short term business scheme is lost in repaying the loans.

The Coopers saw that they could provide small loans, training and support through SEAM, to enable people operating small businesses to progress. There were also local people who were keen to support the project and who helped SEAM to employ two local people to manage the project on the ground.