In Pictures: Meet the Savings Groups in South Darfur setting the bar high up

Savings and Internal Lending Communities (SILC) –a type of a community-based micro-finance concept that are becoming increasingly popular in rural communities in Africa and other parts of the world where access to banks is limited. These groups mobilise community members to cumulatively save money and provide loans to its members, which are repaid at an interest agreed to by the group.

In South Darfur state in western Sudan, World Vision has worked with community members to  embrace this not-so-new approach to become economically empowered and have funds to meet the daily needs of their families. 

World Vision is part of a consortium of six international NGOs that received funding from UK's Department for International Development (DFID) in 2014 to implement this four-year project. it's designed to provide easier access to financial services for group members, who can use loans to build businesses that will provide them with a secure livelihood, while teaching them how to cope with financial shocks. 

Thirty-five year old Munira is a shinning example of the success of the group savings concept. The married mother of three children: eight-year-old Mohamed who is in grade one, six-year-old Amasi and her last born-Esmihani who is just one and half years old, lives in a remote village about 90 kilometres south of Nyala, the state capital of South Darfur.  She is part of an all women savings group with a membership of 25. Munira speaks fondly of her SILC traaining, which included instruction on establishing a group and managing groups, financial management and records keeping.

In January 2015, she took out a loan of 1500 Sudanese Pounds (£117U.K.) from her savings group. “I bought two goats- one billy goat and a female. The goats have since multiplied, and I have 13 goats,” she says her face lighting up with joy.

“I recently sold one billy goat and was able to buy school uniform, books and other writing materials for my boy who is in school, and also cater for family expenses," Munira says. "The goats are also a good source of milk for my children and they are always excited when they take tea with milk."

The group's funds continues to grow as members receive loans and return with interest. Since the group began in 2015, the highest savings they have had before distribution (usually at the end of each cycle i.e. yearly) is £1817 (British Pounds). 

The group members have also agreed to set aside three Sudanese pounds per week, which put into a social welfare fund that’s used to help members in need. Along with their growing financial independence, Munira says the group has made another important contribution to the local community.

"The real impact has been the fact that we have been able to save money by ourselves without receiving financial aid," she says. This has forced us to become self-reliant and not dependent on hand outs."

Another success story for World Vision’s work with community-based financial groups can be found in a nearby locality in western Sudan, where 16 local residents have formed the Tawasul Savings and Investment Group. Saddique, the chairman of the group, says it was established in March 2016 with each member agreeing to contribute the equivalent of £2 per month. Using this money, the group set up a shop that sells both food and non-food commodities and has also invested in a five-acre plot of land to group sorghum and groundnuts. 

Sorghum is a staple food in Sudan eaten in most households while groundnut is commonly used to produce oil. Saddique says the group harvested 18 bags of sorghum and 30 bags of nuts from their property, which earned them £780. They now plan to expand their landholdings to 10 acres and their increased financial stability means that members can afford to pay £4 per month to finance additional loans. 

All of this is possible because World Vision works through a network of community members carefully selected and trained to become champions and promoters of the SILC concept. They, in turn, promote the concept to their community members and train them on how to set up a group and keep it running. 

Khatir Ahmed is one of 24 certified field agents that were trained by World Vision in August 2015.  By November of the same year, he had successfully helped establish seven SILC groups in his locality, all of which are still operating. Khatir closely supervises the operations of the SILC activities until the groups become completely independent, which usually takes about one year to complete. Khatir says the saving and lending culture is spreading through the villages in his area.

Khatir says that he has observed the saving and lending culture spread through the villages. “More and more community members especially women are gaining an interest in learning about SILC groups and wishing to join," Khatir says. 

Nazir DabakaIssa, a well-respected religious leader in the locality, is very pleased that the SILC field agents are young people drawn from the communities. “This really demonstrates that there’s that aspect of ownership of the project,” he says.

Since 2014, a total of 346 groups have been established with more than 7,800 members, of whom more than two-thirds are women. Adam Ateem, project coordinator of the project, says a critical success factor is in the number of groups becoming self-managed after training. In year 2015, 143 groups became self-managed. For the year 2016, 112 SILC groups of the 203 established are currently active. 

Learn more about how World Vision is working with families and communities to improve livelihoods and resilience.