We had the opportunity this last week to check in on the progress of our community micro-credit and women’s savings circles in the communities of Pacutama and Chuicutama, and Cajola and it was inspiring to see the changes happening!
Over 8 years ago, Yabal received a grant for Q15,000 for the community of Chuicutama and we asked them what they’d like to use the money for. They decided to use it as a rotating lending fund in order to rent farmland and start small businesses during the year. For the first 6 years, Yabal lent the money out to each family during planting season and the families paid back the money in monthly installments throughout the year. We didn’t charge interest, but each year, more and more families asked to be part of this lending fund and we slowly increased the amount we lent out. Two years ago, we decided to turn over the management of that original fund to the community and work with them create a system of interest on the money lent out in order to grow their fund.
Well after two years, we’re proud to say that the community has managed to grow their original fund of Q15,000 into Q22,000! And they expect to grow that fund by another 10% this year, and again the next year and so on. This money that they’ve been able to raise allows them to envision new community enterprises and crops that they can invest in as a group in order to create jobs and opportunities for their families in the future. Currently, thanks to this fund, members have been able to, not only assure their own food security, but to also start small businesses such as a carpentry workshop, bread-making, small stores, corn grinders, pigs and chickens, weaving businesses, and experiment with cash crops such as fava beans and peas.
In an area where many are forced to migrate to the US in search of job opportunities, this community has hope that their youth will be able to flourish without leaving their communities.
Women’s Saving Circles in Pacutama, Chuicutuma, and Cajola
This year began a new program with our women’s weaving cooperatives- financial literacy training and the formation of savings circles. We are extremely grateful to Catholic Relief Services for sharing their savings circles methodology to train our groups of women in this process.
The groups are formed of 20-25 women who meet weekly or monthly to collectively save part of their earnings for a whole year. The interesting part of this process is that the women lend out the money they have saved in small loans to members of the group each month. The group creates the rules for members and collectively decides on interest rates for these loans collectively. Throughout the year, they are able to grow their savings with this interest, which is shared amongst all at the end of the yearly cycle. Each meeting they also contribute a small donation that is saved for an emergency fund to support members in case of emergencies such as illnesses, family deaths, or other disasters.
These savings groups provide a number of incredible benefits:
- Creating a system and environment of saving
- Giving women access to small loans, something which is very hard for them to access in the traditional banking system
- Keeping the interest earnings on loans within the community in order to benefit the same women (as oppossed to benefiting third party lenders)
- Financial literacy education! Most women in these groups have very little education and even less understanding of systems of accounting, financial institutions, and the concept of investment and growing capitol- something which they are all becoming experts in through these groups!
- Practicing collective decision-making and transparency; and witnessing their power when they work as a group as opposed to as individuals in order to create economic opportunities for each other
It was so inspiring to see these three groups in action and empowered to create opportunities for the future. Sustainable jobs and businesses are the building blocks of economic independence and these financial tools help create community-centered growth and entreprenuership. We’re looking towards a future where these communities can, not only survive, but actually thrive!