Bruce February 2009

Name: Jessica Bruce
Post: Bassila
Date Submitted:
Contact Information: 97 95 65 21
Pick up Location: Parakou
Project Description: At least 33 women's groups exist in Bassila; they are generally organized according to shared profession. There is no formal organizational structure incorporating all of the groups; however, four of the groups are registered with the mayor's office, and all 33 have contact with Mrs. Dahana GOMON, who acts as an unofficial leader of the women of Bassila. Under this project, a Peace Corps Small Enterprise Development Volunteer is teaching two of the existing groups to form Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs), following the guidelines of the Village Savings and Loan Associations Program Guide: Field Operations Manual, provided by the Peace Corps to all small Enterprise Development Volunteers in Benin. Members of each VSLA meet regularly to save a fixed amount of money, which they store in a lock box and control with two accounting systems; the money is later redistributed to the members in the form of loans (which are repaid with interest, allowing the group's funds to grow), and a second fund is kept as an insurance fund in case of emergencies. The goal of this project is to empower members, who are mostly illiterate and work in the informal sector, to understand and self-direct three important financial services which they do not otherwise have access to (savings, loans, and insurance). Moreover, the project is a starting point for collaboration with these groups to ameliorate their business practices, and hopefully, additional women's groups in Bassila will be taught the VSLA method, building upon these groups' successes.
One of the women's groups sells fish in the Bassila market. Outside of their regular group meetings, they meet with the Peace Corps Volunteer twice a week as a VSLA. Each member contributes 500 CFA to a loan fund and 50 CFA to an insurance fund at each meeting. The women keep their money in a lock box, which they provided, and are beginning to save a portion of their money at the Agricultural Savings and Credit Union (CLCAM). The Peace Corps Volunteer began working with this group on October 12, 2008, and so far, the group has distributed 140,000 CFA in loans to its members. Mrs. GOMON attends the meetings on occasion to act as a French-Anii translator between the Volunteer and the group and to help resolve problems as they arise; when she is not present, the group's secretary acts as translator. The group already had many of the supplies necessary to form a VSLA and mobilized some additional funds for other supplies; the only supply furnished by the Volunteer was an ink pad, used for non-numerical record-keeping in individual passbooks.
The second group produces and sells palm oil in the Bassila market and surrounding markets. They began working with the Peace Corps Volunteer on November 18, 2008; members save 500 CFA weekly and contribute 50 CFA weekly to the insurance fund. The group has already mobilized 57,000 CFA in savings (none of which has been distributed as loans so far). Each week, the Peace Corps Volunteer meets with the group to teach them how to run the VSLA, concentrating on learning one new skill each week. The group's secretary acts as a French-Anii translator between the Volunteer and the group, and the Volunteer uses handmade drawings to explain concepts to the group. Prior to forming the VSLA under the Volunteer's guidance, the group did not have any of the necessary supplies. The Volunteer purchased one notebook, 13 passbooks, an ink pad, two rubber stamps, a ruler, an electronic calculator, and two ballpoint pens for the VSLA's accounting system, in addition to a metal lockbox with three locks and two fabric bags for storing the group's funds.
Dates of Project: The Volunteer began working with the fish-sellers group on October 12, 2008, and with the oil-producers group on November 18, 2008. Work with both groups is ongoing; active Volunteer involvement in VSLA operations is expected to continue through the end of 2009, and the members are expected to maintain their VSLAs for life.
Number of People Involved: One Peace Corps SED Volunteer (Jessica Bruce) leads the project, with occasional assistance of a local women's leader (Mrs. Dahana GOMON). The fish-sellers group has 14 members (all women), and the oil-producers group has 13 members (11 women and 2 men). Thus, 25 women and 2 men are the beneficiaries of this group.

Item Purpose Quantity Unit Price Total Price
Painted Metal Lock Box Fund storage 1 7000 CFA 7000 CFA
Locks with keys Safekeeping of funds; three members hold keys to separate locks, ensuring transparency 3 400 CFA 1200 CFA
Passbooks Accounting for individual members 13 200 CFA 2600 CFA
Rubber Stamps Accounting for non-numerates; contributions are stamped into individuals' passbooks 2 1000 CFA 2000 CFA
Ink Pads Accounting for non-numerates; contributions are stamped into individuals' passbooks 2 1200 CFA 2400 CFA
Notebook Accounting; literate secretary keeps group's records using notebook, pens, ruler 1 100 CFA 100 CFA
Ruler Accounting; literate secretary keeps group's records using notebook, pens, ruler 1 50 CFA 50 CFA
Ballpoint Pens Accounting; literate secretary keeps group's records using notebook, pens, ruler 2 (one red, one blue) 125 CFA 250 CFA
Electronic Calculator Calculating totals and interest payments 1 900 CFA 900 CFA
Total 16500 CFA

Amount Requested: 16500 CFA


GAD Coordinator: This looks like a great project. Jessica included all receipts, and an extremely thorough description of the project and its beneficiaries. Recommend Funding.

GAD Finance: Very thorough and professional reimbursement proposal. Recommend Funding.

GAD Specialist: This is another great project. Funding recommended.

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