Promoting financial inclusion for women in cocoa-producing communities

Solidaridad’s Village Savings and Loan Association scheme, introduced in cocoa-producing communities, is charting the course for financial independence for women.

Angele Oulai with her cassava grinding machine.

Thirty-year-old Angele Oulai is reaping enormous benefits from Solidaridad’s Village Savings and Loan Association after she was introduced to it three years ago.

Sceptical about the viability of the scheme, she was reluctant to commit to it at first. Today, Angele presides over a 60-member association of women in Gnanzobly in Cote d’Ivoire. 

The scheme is aimed at helping women and other farmers to develop a savings culture and achieve financial inclusion. Through this, smallholder farmers have greater access to credit from formal financial institutions.

Building savings and opportunity

With just a small business to her name, she took part in the scheme, contributing 500 CFA (0.85 dollars) a week.

After months of saving, Angele was able to access a loan of 25,000 CFA (50 dollars) to scale-up her business. With time, she doubled her contribution to the scheme which allowed her to access more credit.  After a year, she was able to save 126,000 CFA (450 US dollars).

Through the scheme, Angele and other women received training in basic financial literacy, record-keeping, leadership, entrepreneurship and alternative livelihood. 

The knowledge Angele acquired empowered her to venture into cassava farming. Currently, she has a 1.5-hectare cassava farm from which she earns another stream of income. She also acquired a mobile artisanal grinding machine with credit she secured from the scheme.

“The equipment enables me to process the cassava from my farm and that of other women. I  also lend the grinding machine to make more money,” says Angele.

Having been empowered, Angele can now support her household and educate her children without a struggle. 

Angele appointed as Village Savings and Loan ambassador. 

Promoting social inclusion for better community development

Under the scheme, men and women are encouraged to work together to strengthen the existing links between groups to promote social inclusion for better community development in cocoa-producing areas.

“Our male counterparts are now taking part in the scheme because they have seen its overall benefits,” says Angele.

Through the Village Savings and Loans Associations, women have been trained in sound financial record keeping and have been supported to gain access to credit from financial institutions. This has helped them with the needed capital to re-invest in their businesses, thus providing them with a source of livelihood. For these interventions, they are now better placed to cater for their families and improve on their general quality of life.

Since its implementation, Solidaridad has contributed to the establishment of 251 associations in 475 communities in Côte d’Ivoire. The scheme is also implemented in Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where Solidaridad mainstreams it in its work on sustainable cocoa, oil palm and gold. 

Read more about our work in West Africa.