The Art of Saving

“What is saving?” expert Joyce asks the room. “Moses, can you tell me?”

It’s been one year since the Bulambuli community saving group Buyaga Vision first learnt the rules and regulations of holding their own saving groups on a weekly basis. And Joyce is taking no prisoners testing who can recall the core principles of saving.

“It’s crucial to revisit the basics,” Joyce told us. “After one year it’s easy to fall into bad habits or forget the distinction between funds that should be used for social and educational purposes, rather than for lending or redistribution at the end of the cycle.”

“And of course the importance of time management,” she adds with a wry smile, after some participants arrive an hour after the scheduled start time…

“What is saving?”

Joyce’s training sessions are based on the now well tried and tested Village Savings and Loans Association methodology – a simple approach that allows communities without access to financial services the opportunity to create safe spaces to save and borrow money together.

“They must first bring together 30 members from the community,” Joyce explains. “Then elect a chairperson, a treasurer, a secretary etc. They will then set a time to meet each week and during each meeting, members will deposit funds or request a loan from the group, to buys seeds or pay schools fees for example. They will then agree to pay back the loan within a timeframe including a small interest payment. In this way, each member has a secure way to save and also grow their funds as the interest will be redistributed at the end of each yearly cycle.”

“Of course things do not always run 100% smoothly,” Joyce mentions, explaining that sometimes borrowers are delayed repaying their loans due to personal circumstances, funds that should be set aside for social funds are lent out or disagreements occur between members. But it is through addressing such challenges that the groups become stronger, with the experience of overcoming difficulties and resolving conflicts being educational for all involved. The refreshment training is crucial in this respect – for rooting out and issues and enabling the group to start the next yearly cycle with fresh eyes and clean books.

The training also gave the members an opportunity to reflect on the last year, including the progress made and challenges faced. We spoke to some of the women who have been saving for over a year now: “Before I was suffering a lot but now I can have money for food even when the harvest is bad, such as now where the rain has not arrived as expected, because I haven’t spent it all at once,” said Mary.

“Now I am independent”

“Women here are usually dependent on men, especially if they don’t work,” said Irene. “From being part of a saving group for a year I now have more independence and as well as a group of friends.”

CfD co-founder Pilar Tejon was delighted with the progress of the group: “I want to congratulate you on your hard work over the last year,” she told them. She was also keen to bring the saving group onto the next level: “Now the group has matured I would like them to start with the beginner business training course so in the future they will be able to use their savings to start their own business ventures.”

So after a solid year of practice and with the expert guidance of field coordinator Joyce, the women of Buyaga Vision are not only gaining new knowledge and skills but really perfecting the Art of Saving. Here’s to the next step for these savers: joining the burgeoning community of entrepreneurs in Bulambuli Valley through channelling their knowledge, skills and savings into innovative business ventures that will grow their income as well as their confidence #girlpower

By Sarah Bradbury, CfD Campaigns. Field Coordinator Joyce delivered refreshment training to CfD saving groups Buyaga Vision and Bameso over the last few weeks. For more information about our saving group programme and the different saving groups in Bulambuli Valley, please visit here. To support our projects, please make your donation here.

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