PCV 8 June 2010

Brief Project Description:
The purpose of the “Iyaton” village savings and loan group is to provide basic financial services to a local group of women confined to a quartier in the Bante Commune of Benin. Such services are necessary for the women as they lack a bank or micro-finance institution in their village and for the most part cannot read or write and have no access to secure savings or loans. These two services are offered to members in the group and provide first a secure place for the women to save money and second access to credit with which they encouraged to invest in their business activities. Generally, the women in the group prepare street food, sell produce from their farms, and/or sell other merchandise like clothing.
The group was trained for over a month in how to run and record the events of savings and loans meetings as well as given the chance to determine the rules regulating the association. This included electing the governance officials (president, secretary, and treasury positions) and deciding to meet upon a biweekly basis and save in 500cfa increments. Loans are given out that don’t exceed three times a member’s savings and which are intended to be invested in business activities. The group will save and loan in this manner for exactly a year after which each member will be paid back what they have said with interest accrued from interest on loans and late fees collected by the group. The overall goal of the project is that by the end of this first cycle the group will decide to reform for a second cycle and continue saving and loaning money without any intervention on my part.

Dates of Project: 24.2.2010 – 14.3.2011
The dates above include a month of group training and formation plus a (projected) year of savings and loans activity.

Number of People Involved: The group consists of 19 members, 16 of whom are female and 3 of whom are male. All members are over 25 years of age and are members of the same neighborhood. All the members work at least in part as farmers while many of the women also sell food or other merchandise such as clothing in the village.
All participating members have been affected in that they now not only have savings and loans services available to them but they all have a say in how those services operate. Although run by a governing body, the group is democratically elected and the membership has the power to change a rule or eject a leader by popular vote at any time.
Concerning the governance of the group the president is male while all other positions are held by women (the secretary, treasurer and 3 key holders). While I would have preferred that the entire group be governed by women the language barrier necessitated the inclusion of a male who spoke French. However, the president’s role is in some ways ceremonial in comparison to the secretary who handles all the collection and record keeping of the money for the group, the president just ensures the rules are followed by the group.

Budget:

Item Number Unit Price Cost
Lock box 1 7.000 CFA 7.000 CFA
Ink stamp 1 3.500 CFA 3.500 CFA
Markers 3 400 CFA 1.200 CFA
‘Khaki paper’ 6 75 CFA 450 CFA
Stamp pad 1 1.500 CFA 1.500 CFA
Lock and key 3 300 CFA 900 CFA
50 page notebook 16 100 CFA 1.600 CFA
Total Cost 16.150 CFA

The lock box and three locks and keys are used to keep the money secure and safe. The ink stamp, stamp pad, and notebooks are used as a record keeping system for savings and loans. Finally, the markers and kakhi paper were used in the formation of the group before they officially started saving money.

Amount Requested: 16.150 CFA

PCV Feedback (if reimbursement):
Although the project is not even half way done I’m happy with how things have gone thus far. All the members have paid their dues each meeting, including late fees. In the last two months I have been attending meetings less frequently and the group still seems to be running smoothly. The first big test of the group, however, will be how well the group pays back the loans they’ve taken out. At this point, there are still loans out that are not yet due (members have two months to pay back loans). If a member does not pay back the loan immediately or is late, it will be crucial to see how well the group responds, and whether or not they follow the strict expulsion rule we wrote in our constitution for those who default on loans.
If I had to start the group over I would probably have encouraged small sub-committees within the group to account for member attendance each meeting. Although members pay for being late, often too many members are late which lengthens meetings. I might visit each members house and find a responsible member to be responsible for reminding the three or four other members in their group the day of the meeting so that lateness wasn’t so frequent.
For any other PCV’s thinking about starting a small group I would suggest starting small (limiting membership to under 20) and ensuring that you know your translator well. Work with him or her a few weeks before meeting the group so you know they understand your objectives and vision for how the group would work, the importance of punctuality, regular payments, etc.

Comments

GAD Coordinator: A solid VSLA proposal, and excellent feedback. I also like his thoughtful discussion of the gender dynamics of the governing board. How were the members chosen? Receipts received and checked out. Recommend funding.

GAD Finance: There definitely has been an increase of VSLA projects over this past year. So exciting! Is it really too late to try and break the group into smaller subcommittees? Recommend funding.

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