Cambodian farmers Nuoy and Nangkek were both in their late 20s when they took out their first microloan in 2018 for around $600 to help grow their crops. Today, the couple owe more than $10,000 to two financial institutions charging 18% annual interest.
Like many borrowers in a country with one of the highest rates of microloans per capita, the couple spiraled deeper into debt as they borrowed more money to keep up with monthly payments on existing loans. Nuoy and Nangek also resorted to borrowing from several neighborhood lenders who charged even higher interest.
Poor cashew harvests brought by heavy rains destroyed much of the only source of income the two had, forcing them last year to migrate to another part of the country to work in a car parts factory. The debt and stress have mounted.