savings groups

Study on the sustainability of GRAD structures and outcomes

This study conducted by PDCR aims to better understand the sustainability and functionally of the processes and elements of GRAD-I as well as the different actors and structures supported and established by the project. And as such this report will focus on VESAs, household/value chains, agro-dealers, FEMAs/Cooperatives, micro-franchise, multi-stakeholders platform and access to finance after the project ended and will cover the period from December 2016 until September 2019.

The Graduation with Resilience to Achieve Sustainable Development (GRAD) project (hereafter referred to as the project) was a five-year USAID-funded project which began in December 2011 and ended in December 2016. Its strategic objective was to graduate a minimum of 50,000 chronically food-insecure households from the Ethiopian Government’s (GoE’s) Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP). Additionally, it aimed to increase each household’s income by $365 by the project’s fifth year in 16 Woredas in Tigray, Amhara, Oromia, and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Region (SNNPR). During the implementation of the project combined “push” and “pull” model into a complete and integrated package of interventions and within this model the project at times established and/or the above-mentioned actors.

Accordingly, desktop reviews of relevant documents including the project final evaluation, suitability and exit plan as well as a variety of reports were undertaken. The study team collected quantitative and qualitative information from 330 VESAs, 1,066 households, 188 saleswomen, 21 agro-dealers, 31 FEMAs/cooperatives. Furthermore, it consulted with representatives from multi-stakeholder platforms groups, Woreda FSTF, MFIs/RuSACCOs and participating wholesalers linked to the project.
Key findings:
56% of the VESAs established and supported by the project are still active as members were able to benefit from their membership, improve their saving and loan management, improve loan repayment mechanisms, were able to share out on time and at critical times, have structured and transparent management committee. These groups develop their members’ social capital, have a strong sense of trust, have benefited from their family’s support. The active VESA have reasonable membership size, common interest and have managed receive continued support.
42% of the VESAs established are inactive as members lost confidence and the interest right after the project ended. Members did not clearly understand the value of the VESAs, some faced internal conflicts, others such as the groups in Sidama and Gurage Zones were affected by drought and security issues. Overall, the inactive VESAs have received less support especially those established in the later part of the project. On a positive side, in Tigray few groups dissolved their VESAs as there was no needed since they now have started saving at banks and can access credit from MFIs.
2% of VESAs have transformed into RuSACCOs. Those who managed to this transformation was encouraged by some of their members who already were also member to a RuSACCO. The VESAs were not encouraged due to RuSACCO’s principle that supported individual membership to join already established RuSACCOs; and groups would rather retain their VESA as they feel they have full control and do not want to lose their social capital.
Active VESAs were formed on a voluntary base and were given adequate briefing about the purpose of the group. In contrast, the inactive VESAs members were mainly selected and groups were formed by project staffs.
Active VESAs remained together and have not sought to split into smaller groups as they value the social capital created within the group and prefer to work as a one team. Dissimilarly, 53% of the currently inactive groups did separate to form smaller groups, mainly due to internal conflicts, dissatisfaction regarding members selection methods and lack of management skills amongst the leadership.
Across all study areas, all VESAs were found have bylaws and in the case of Tigray and Amhara regions, some groups internally agreed and have amended their bylaws articles related to saving amounts, loan repayment mechanisms and interest rates reflecting their needs.
Active VESAs have successfully built social cohesion, capital, are a safe and fertile environment for training, social and cultural norms discussion platforms that may impede development drives and contribute to food security (e.g. gender inequality, infant feeding practices, etc.).
On average 61% of the active VESAs have been able to increase their savings size while only 13% reporting a decrease. Those who reported a decrease was directly associated to their inability to save as family expenses have escalated and they were unable to generate more income in order to save.
In all the study areas, the groups have paid share out every year in May and June. Their average value of liquid savings during the last share-out was 28,282 Birr with an average group share out of 1,444 Birr ($51) and an internal loan size of 26,649 Birr.

Closing The Financial Inclusion Gap in Rwanda (CFIGR) Project

From September 2019 to April 2022, MINECOFIN technically and financially collaborated with CARE to design and implement a project called the Closing Financial Inclusion in Rwanda (CFIGR) that aimed at closing the financial inclusion gap and promoting the long-term saving scheme (LTSS) among VSLA members. The main objectives of the projects were.
I. Improving the financial literacy levels and saving culture of 700,000 financially excluded (75% women) in 30 districts of Rwanda.
II. Increasing access to and use of appropriate and affordable customer centric products/ services for 560,000 financially excluded Rwandans.
III. Piloting effective transition to cashless payments, through the digitalization of at least 2080 of the supported saving groups’ operations/transactions and development and provision of technology based formal financial services. IV. Increasing LTSS subscriptions and sustained payments through VSLAs as platforms. V. Expanding the existing CARE’s Agents Network to cover all 14,837 villages as a community development advisory, catalyst, and support structure. Key Achievements Thanks to CFIGR project, CARE’s financial inclusion work now covers 30 Districts through 15,053 Village Agents supporting 39,776 village savings & loan groups (VSLGs) with over 1,087,154 members, 74% being women that have so far mobilized around RWF 25,352,861,314 ($ 25M USD) of total savings and use RWF 22,124,081,062 ($ 22M USD) of cumulative loans1 invested in groups ‘members income generating activities. The CARE-MINECOFIN partnership project has been able to contribute to closing the financial inclusion gap by organizing 440,036 financially excluded citizens (71% women) into 17,088 VSLAs. These VSLA members form part of the 745,459 people mapped at the beginning of the project as financial excluded representing 59% and are now financially included. In addition, 369,726 VSLAs members have access to formal financial services which include SACCOs, MFIs and Banks where they can save and borrow for personal needs.
To increase LTSS subscriptions and sustained payments through VSLAs, CARE integrated LTSS into financial literacy manual as an effective manner for VAs to deliver messages to VSLAs members and make informed choices; subscribe and persistently save through the long-term pension scheme. CARE trained and equipped master trainers with digital materials. Under the additional financial support of the UNCDF, 416 master trainers in each village were equipped with digital materials including tablets and animated videos to help mobilize, register, and follow up on LTSS payments by VSLA members. To date, 225,293 VSLA members (70% women and 21% youth) both from old and new VSLAs have registered in EjoHeza scheme. 197,151 members (68% women) are active savers and FRW 1,429,982,010 saved as annual contributions as of end April 2022. Read More...


Globally, women have access to 10% of the available credit, 7% of the training on productive activities and are 40% less likely to have access to agricultural inputs than men. Women also have limited technological inputs and market access, and only 4.3% of women have access to agricultural extension services. Although women provide about 50% of the agricultural workforce, they still lack equal access to productive resources.

Due to looming threats including climate change, an estimated 20% increase in hunger is predicted by 2050. The COVID-19 pandemic and its economic aftermath likely will push 426 million more people into poverty in the next three to five years. Responding to these challenges requires creative solutions that prioritize the most vulnerable, including women and young people. To this end, CARE implemented the Pennies to Power program with generous support from the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation. This final report describes the program’s accomplishments over the full implementation period (June 1, 2019 to June 1, 2022).

Pennies to Power played a critical role in building resilience and increasing the capacity of people to cope with crises. Moreover, it helped create thriving and sustainable communities, where farmers prosper, people are empowered, and the planet is healthier. CARE implemented the program in Malawi, Nigeria and Tanzania to build resilience, unlock market access for women and youth, and ensure they are economically and socially empowered through savings groups known as village savings and loan associations (VSLAs). Moreover, the program contributed to the achievement of the following U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): No Poverty (SDG 1), Zero Hunger (SDG 2), Gender Equality (SDG 5), and Climate Action (SDG 13).

VSLA By the Numbers: A Comprehensive Analysis of the Impact and ROI of VSLAs

Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) have been a foundational programmatic approach at CARE since 1991. Since then, CARE has helped over 13.7 million people join savings groups. The savings group model has been adopted and adapted by a variety of organizations globally. Through this report, we will examine the social and financial effects and returns of savings groups as well as how groups affected members’ resilience to COVID-19. The results gave an overview of the financial return on investment (ROI), group economic outcomes, savings groups costs, and individual and household effects for savings groups both inside and outside of CARE.

In order to calculate a return on investment, the financial benefit for a typical participant over three years was considered as well as the financial benefits for a replicated VSLA for two years related to the cost that the donor/implementer spends to set up and oversee the VSLA for its first cycle. Using internal CARE data such as budgets, evaluation, and impact reports, the average ROI of costs to establish a saving group was between 7:1 and 20:1. For every $1 invested by CARE, there is evidence for the savings of a typical VSLA participant to increase between $7 and $20. For the average VSLA participant, median income increased by $9.35 (+/- $0.55 USD) within the first year of joining the group for each $1 USD invested. Additionally, average income increased by $18.85 (+/-$1.15 USD) within five years of each $1 USD invested. Using industry data and internal CARE data, this analysis showed that for every $250 USD invested three net new children attended school.

The financial effect of a VSLA appears to outlast the formal lifecycle of the group. Evaluation of VSLAs as they phased out found that the return on savings (ROS) was 50% (+/-10%) during the supported formal lifecycle of the group and decreased to around 35% (+/-19%) after the VSLA is phased out. However, the positive outcomes and impact of participating in VSLAs continue even after project phase out. Members continue saving and getting benefits. Share value even increase for 57% (+/-13%) of groups in the available data.

Enquête Trimestrielle pour le Rapportage du Plan de Mesure de Performance Projets “OLAM VSLA” & “TOUTON VSLA”

Dans le cadre de cette enquête trimestrielle, la méthode d’échantillonnage utilisée est le sondage aléatoire systématique stratifié au premier degré. La taille de l'échantillon de l'enquête trimestrielle des projets OLAM VSLA et TOUTON VSLA a été calculée et s’établit à 339 membres de VSLA. [7 pages] Read More...

Galdogob and Bursalah Stabilization and Economic Development Initiative

Through the project activities mainly VSLAs, vocational training and infrastructure projects, beneficiaries in the project location of Galdogob and Bursallah have realized improved access to financial services (savings and loans) as well as improved livelihood opportunities especially for vulnerable groups in the community mainly the youth and female members of the community.

Through successfully facilitating dialogue between communities from Galdogob and Bursalah, conducting reconciliations dialogues between clan/tribes, conducting forums for women empowerment and participation in decision-making, engaging youth in peer-to-peer dialogues and peer networks, conducting dialogues between the community and the Puntland Government and conducting talk shows and engaging the media, the project has realized increased collaboration between community members and government in local development and conflict management and also enhanced trust between community and government.

In addition, enhanced civic education-conflict management skills of community members have equipped the community with the necessary skills to address conflicts between clans in Galdogob and Bursalah while installation of solar street lights Galdogob/ Bursalah and construction and equipping of Galdogob police station were identified as important connectors between community members as well as between community members and the government through ensuring common use of resources and improving governance outcomes such as safety and security, trust and access to services. [37 pages] Read More...

COVID-19: Impacts, Attitudes, and Safety Nets in Haiti (April 2021)

In April 2021, CARE conducted interviews with savings group members and leaders to understand their experiences of COVID-19, and how it was changing their lives. The survey included 364 women and 175 men, for a total of 539 respondents. This follows a survey done in June 2020 to understand what was happening at that time for members of savings groups. The surveys covered Artibonite and Grand Anse.

COVID-19 continues to have important impacts for women and men in savings groups. In general, men and women in these groups were reporting similar challenges across the sample. 86% of women and men are reporting impacts in their livelihoods, and 98% of people say that COVID-19 is affecting their ability to save. 64% say they can’t meet family needs and hunger has gone up. 90% of people are reporting that COVID-19 is impacting their social lives. More women than men report that Gender Based Violence has gone up. While women are more likely to have lost influence in the household than men (39% compared to 33%), men are more likely to report that they lost social status in the community (48% compared to 43%). Read More...

Final: Servicio de Diagnóstico sobre las Necesidades de Financiamiento y de Servicios de Desarrollo Empresarial en contexto Post-COVID 19 de los Empresarios de la Microempresa y Pequeña Empresa – MYPE

CARE Peru. El presente informe tiene como objetivo presentar los resultados del primer y segundo levantamiento de información y el diagnóstico para la identificación de las Necesidades de Financiamiento y de Servicios de Desarrollo Empresarial en contexto Post-COVID 19 de los Empresarios de la Microempresa y Pequeña Empresa – MYPE, durante el periodo de diciembre del 2020 a marzo del 2021. Para ello, se realizó una revisión del enfoque metodológico empleado, proceso y herramientas de recojo de información, en donde se detalló los elementos que permitieron y dificultaron dicho proceso. El diagnóstico consitió en el análisis de la información recogida en donde se tomará en cuenta la revisión de los hallazgos por variables del estudio, diferencias percibidas por grupo de participación (strivers y pre-strivers), así como de la diferenciación por género y resiliencia. Por otro lado, se presentan conclusiones enfatizando temas relacionados a su gestión empresarial como formas de financiamiento, conocimiento de plataformas y medios virtuales, conocimientos sobre estructuración de costos, demanda de microcréditos de los y las micro-empresario/as [63 pgs.] Read More...

Evidence Review of Women’s Groups and COVID-19: Impacts, Challenges, and Policy Implications for Savings Groups in Africa

It has been more than a year since COVID-19 lockdowns began, and economic recovery is a top priority for governments, donors, and international financial institutions (IFIs) worldwide, including in sub-Saharan Africa. Targeted investments that increase community resilience and spur economic growth will mitigate some of the negative economic consequences of this crisis. Investment in women’s economic resilience and social support is para- mount, considering that the crisis may reverse recent progress in gender equality. Around the world, women’s groups, such as self- help groups, savings groups, and health groups, play an important role in communities; evidence shows promise in their role in promoting women’s empowerment and economic outcomes. They encompass many models, but all bring women together around a shared purpose, such as financial inclusion, livelihoods, health, and women’s rights.
This brief focuses on one specific type of women’s group in sub-Saharan Africa: savings groups. Savings groups are a common form of women’s group and serve as a reliable mechanism for people in sub-Saharan Africa to save money. Members of savings groups pool small weekly savings into a common fund, which members can then borrow against, creating opportunities for investments and women’s empowerment. Savings groups show mixed, but promising, results in improving economic and social outcomes. This brief, written by a consortium of researchers and practitioners, presents emerging evidence from studies in diverse African contexts— with a deep dive into Nigeria and Uganda—on how COVID-19 has affected savings groups and how these groups have helped mitigate the pandemic’s negative consequences in sub-Saharan Africa.
This report is 23 pages long.

Women’s involvement in coffee agroforestry value- chains Financial training, village savings and loans associations, and decision power in Northwest Vietnam

Colleagues in Vietnam and at CCAFS and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) carried out some research on our work in the coffee value chain (TEAL).

This study assessed VSLA impacts and related training on gender equality and women’s access to coffee markets in an ongoing coffee- project in northwest Vietnam.

Applying the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI), women rated perceptions of their decision-making over a range of 18 tasks related to household and agricultural responsibilities and use of income and social activities (over 18 months). There were improvements in decision-making power in categories with previously low participation and increased sharing of domestic responsibilities (biggest gains were decision-making over large purchases and use of income). Also found that husbands to women in the study embraced more equal sharing of responsibility and decision-making with their wives.
This report is 40 pages long.

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