Charlie is a 48-year-old father of six from a village in the south west area of the island of Tanna in Vanuatu. Located in the hills about a twenty minute steep drive from the main road, local people from the area are mostly subsistence farmers. The village is quite close to Lenakel, the provincial headquarters and main business centre in Tanna.
“The money we made from selling the vegetables from our gardens at the market is good but we found it quite hard to manage it to benefit us in the long run,” said Charlie.
“One of the main reasons it is hard to save is social obligations, such as custom ceremonies. They happen right throughout the year and use up a lot of the money we make so we end up with little money to meet our basic needs, for our plans or for urgent needs," added Charlie.
In 2018 World Vision’s Agricultural Development for Tanna’s Economic Growth (ADTEG) project set up a savings and loans scheme in the community with the aim of increasing livelihood opportunities and resilience for smallholder farmers in the area.
Charlie, who lives with his wife, six children and a grandchild, was part of the first group to join the savings and loans scheme. A month after joining, Charlie had accumulated enough savings to make him eligible for a loan. He took out three loans totalling 50,000 Vatu (NZD$685) to assist him in setting up and running a store which sells basic food supplies and other basic living amenities.
“A few months into the operation of the shop and we have already noted that our monthly saving has already increased about 10000 Vatu (NZD$131). Not only have we found a way to save our money through the loan scheme but now we are able to invest in a business that will benefit us in the long run,” Charlie shared.
Prior to the savings and loans scheme, ADTEG had been working with coffee farmers in the community to improve their productivity. Charlie’s son Reynold, aged 32, is one of the coffee farmers being assisted through the agricultural component of the ADTEG project.
“World Vision provides me with technical assistance, seedlings and access to a coffee pulper machine which mechanically removes the skin and flesh from the coffee fruit, a task that is usually completed manually. But now seeing how savings and loans has helped us with the shop, I am optimistic about the money I will make from coffee,” said Reynold.
“The shop has provided us with available cash for needs such as paying for children’s transportation to school and medical emergencies rather than waiting to earn money when our gardenharvest is sold,” said Charlie.
“I am ill and need to go to hospital regularly, sometimes more urgently than other times. With the way the shop has helped us to manage our money, my family finds it easier than before to pay for my transport to and from the hospital,” said Charlie’s wife Janet.
After a year of saving, members of the loan and saving group are given the total amount of the share they have saved. Charlie’s family is looking forward their shares that they will be getting in a couple months.
Reynold said, “We plan to expand the shop building and its supplies. We also plan to buy solar panels to improve light in the shop and our home and to power refrigerators so we can store meat and other cold or frozen items to sell to make it easier for people in our community to buy them.”
This is exciting news not only for their family and the community but also for the individuals who have been offered the opportunity to earn some money working at the shop.
Funded by the New Zealand government and AuCom and private donations from the New Zealand public. ADTEGs' primary aim is to improve productivity of smallholder farmers through improved production, processing and business management which also includes a disaster risk reduction component. The project works with 8,155 people in six communities in the south and south west of Tanna, of which 300 women and 90 men are members of savings and loans groups.