“I’m so happy because I don’t know if I would have been able to save or get this much money.”
These were the happy words of Nansira Doumbia. The young mother of four didn’t always have it so easy. “Before this savings group, you could never get a loan in the village. I have a farm but didn’t have the money to cultivate anything on it.”
This was the least of Nansira and her husband’s troubles. Before the savings group, much to her dismay, her daughter had to drop out of school, unable to keep up with the demands of helping her family and her studies all at once. “My husband and I tried our best to manage our family’s finances,” she lamented.
Everything changed with the arrival of the savings group.
Nansira is part of the Benkani savings group in Dialakoro; part of World Vision Mali’s Saving for Transformation (S4T) programme. This brings women and men together in a cooperative, to save and provide small loans for the development of livelihoods in their community. The group is now in its third saving cycle and the results couldn’t be better for its 27 members. Over a 12 month period, not only did the group autonomously manage and run all its meetings, credit granting and savings collections, but also managed to save FCFA 1,644,200 (USD 3,200).
“Since I joined the group I have been able to send my children back to school,” Nansira said, exuding a sense of empowered pride. She also took advantage of the credit facility available to her through the group to start a small condiment trade. “I buy condiments from Neguela (a nearby town) and resell it in my village and this gives me enough to keep saving about 1000 FCFA a week with the group, FCFA 1,250 (USD 2.50) if business is good. At the beginning I could not save more than FCFA 5,000 (USD 10) but now, I have saved even more than FCFA 50,000 (USD 100),” she said, beaming with joy.
The savings group is much more than just an economic enterprise for its members however. “As a member of this group, I have learned so much essential things to live together in peace. The group has reinforced social cohesion amongst us women; we talk about things like health and community hygiene. We exchange ideas to develop our community. This would not have been possible if we women did not connect with each other,” Nansira professed.
Now, after a year of productive saving, it is payday and the gains are shared among the group’s members. “I’m so happy to have this money. It’s like a gift and we were our own bank. With the FCFA 78,754 (USD 159) I got, I can pay workers to cultivate my farm, continue my other small businesses, buy clothes for my children and pay for some expenses for their upcoming school year.”
“I hope and pray that this great initiative, savings groups, continues.”