Village savings-scheme restores dignity to families

Nov 13, 2017

The Bangura family just outside their new business in Shaika village, Kambia District, Northern Sierra Leone © Alpha Sesay/ UNDP Sierra Leone

A few months ago, the Bangura family was completely broke.

“We had nothing,” says Seima, the mother of the Bangura family. 

The Bangura family lives in the Shaika community in a pastoral settlement just three kilometres from Kambai, Northern Sierra Leone.

There, with funding from the People of Japan, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has introduced the village saving scheme to help income generation among the poorest of the poor. 

The couple - a farmer and a petty trader – and their four children had no idea where their next meal would come from.  Nonetheless, the resilient family continued to send their children to school.

In most rural communities, November is a tough month because little is left of last year’s yield. But it is also a month that is full of hope, because the harvest season is just a month away. 

When the village savings-scheme was introduced in Shaika village six months ago, Seima was among the first to embrace the idea.

The scheme allows members to contribute Le1,000 – less than one cent every week. The money collected is kept in a brown triangular metal box with three locks.  The keys are kept by three different people and a fourth person – who does not hold a key – is the custodian of the box.

When things became very difficult for the Bangura family, Seima turned to the saving scheme.

Before receiving the loan, someone who is also part of the scheme had to vouch for her. According to normal requirements, Seima also had explain how she would use the loan and convince other members that it would be used responsibly.

Ultimately, she received a loan of Le50,000 – the equivalent of US $7.

UNDP visited her two weeks ago, to gauge how she was doing six months after receiving the loan.

“Things are getting better,” she told us. When I took the loan, I started a petty business.”

With a small wooden table, just in of front her house, her home has become one-stop-shop for assorted food and non-food item for the resident in Shaika village.

“I sell most of the things the community used to buy outside the village,” she said. Fellow villagers felt obliged to help Seima and see that her business grew. They knew her business was a loan she took from their saving scheme. 

“We have raised Le9,000,000,” (US $750) said Mohamed Kamara, secretary of the Shaika saving scheme. “We now have 13 more of these schemes in Shaika alone. 

Seima has already repaid the loan and the 5 percent interest she took, and feels that the scheme has restored respect to her family.

“We no longer have to worry about feeding the family, and our children’s school fees and lunch are being taken care of.”  She said.

The scheme has been introduced in 60 communities in two border districts of Kambia and Kailahun as part of the Strengthening Access to Healthcare and Community-Led Development project.

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