Democratic Republic of Congo Village Savings
$0 needed of $40,000
United Methodist Comm on Relief
This program offers training focused on Village Savings and Lending (VSL) with the goal of empowering women. This training is offered to complement a more extensive agriculture initiative. All VSL members involved in this program are also part of the agriculture training. Participants are encouraged to take loans which allow them to pursue small business opportunities and put their learning into practice. Traditionally these VSL groups would only use community money to give one another loans. However, income levels in the program area are extremely low and it would take time for participants to build up enough capital to allow them to take loans. To offset this delay, funds are being injected into each savings group, serving as a base from which revolving loans can be taken. This allows participants to continue their empowerment journey and start micro-enterprises right away.
Dreams Coming True
“Acquiring the culture of saving money,” as Robert put it, means moving beyond the endless poverty loop of spending every cent you earn. Village Savings and Lending (VSL) training has allowed 100 agriculture program participants in five groups to start small businesses together and get ahead for the first time in their lives.
While there’s a special focus on empowering women, men also take part in this opportunity. One such group with the name “Wise Men” decided to meet every Saturday, putting $2.50 each in the lockbox plus making a small contribution to a social fund for emergencies. They soon raised $1,943 with which to start a small business and also make loans to members.
Once they submitted their business plan for a soda shop to the program, they received $3,000 to kickstart it. This allowed them to purchase stock and hire a waiter and a guard. In order to ensure proper management, they took inventories twice a week. Despite some challenges like heavy rains making transport of goods expensive on dilapidated roads, they made a 20% profit the first season.
Robert expressed satisfaction and wonder as he recounted the Wise Men’s experience. “I used to use up all my income without saving anything. But now I will actually earn money just by saving it with my group. It’s a good feeling to know that, in an emergency, I could take out a low interest loan. For us, it’s like having a bank to go to.”
Another Wise Men member, Mr. Banza, said, “The group loaned me enough to buy charcoal so I could fire the bricks I made. Even though I had to pay it back with 10% interest, I still made a profit of 30% when I sold the bricks. This helped me supplement my children’s school fees.”
The five VSL groups are still going strong. What they have achieved thus far is something they only dreamed of before, and is a great motivation to keep saving money together.
Democratic Republic of Congo Village Savings Program
Led by United Methodist Committee on Relief