Smallholder rural farmers benefit from financial services

More than 1,200 smallholder farmers in Cote d’Ivoire now have access to formal financial services through Solidaridad’s Village Savings and Loan Association (VLSA) scheme.

The farmers who are members of 48 VSLA groups have been linked to two microfinance institutions, Baobab and UNACOOPEC-CI. Currently, the groups have raised over 295 million CFA Franc (45,179 Euros), which is being managed by the institutions.

The funds have provided an opportunity for the smallholder farmers to access credits to invest in their farming businesses and in alternative income-generating activities.

The Village Savings and Loan Association scheme has, over the years, served as an effective tool to promote a savings culture and access to credit in communities where formal banking systems are limited.

“Since 2018, Solidaridad’s approach has been to use the VSLA scheme as an entry strategy to enhance smallholders’ access to financial services. Members of the groups are able to develop a savings culture and build a financial portfolio that makes them eligible for credit from financial institutions and provide security for their savings,” says Soro Moussa, Technical Advisor on women’s empowerment and financial literacy at Solidaridad in Cote d’Ivoire. 

He says Solidaridad will continue to use the scheme to bring formal financial services to more smallholders while engaging with the institutions to develop tailor-made products for the farmers.

Nangolo Akola, the president of Femmes Sérieuses, one of the groups that have been linked to financial institutions in the Boudou-Panda community, says the group (women only) was able to access a loan of 4.25 million CFA Franc (6,458 Euro) from the microfinance institution UNACOOPEC-CI. This, she said, has enabled them to expand their businesses and set up new ones.

Thanks to the credit we received from UNACOOPEC-CI, our association is now stronger. Other women in our community have expressed their desire to join us because of the transformation in our business. We are forever grateful to Solidaridad for introducing the Village Savings and Loan Association scheme in our community and for connecting us with UNACOOPEC-CI.

Nangolo Akola, President of Femmes Sérieuses

As of June 2021, more than 612 million CFA Franc (935,098 Euros) in savings had been mobilized by 446 Village Savings and Loan Association groups, comprising 10,158 members (72 percent women), established by Solidaridad.

In Allangbabrokro, a cocoa-producing community, for instance, two VSLA groups made a turnover of 2.4 million CFA Franc (3,726) in one year through savings and interest on credits.

Brou Konan François, a cocoa farmer and member of one of the VSLA groups in the community, said the loans they accessed from the group have enabled them to enhance their livelihoods through engaging in new income-generating activities and investing more resources in their cocoa farms.

“We have been able to establish cassava, maize and groundnut farms, as well as convenient shops as alternatives to our cocoa farming business. This is providing us with additional income to support our households,” he said.

Since incorporating the Village Savings and Loan Association scheme in their programmes in 2018, Solidaridad West Africa has supported more than 50,000 smallholder farmers and community members involved in agricultural supply chains across the subregion to have access to credit to improve their livelihoods.