Economic Food Security: VSLA Intervention Boost Up Food Security In Upper East Region

By Samuel Akapule , Nayagnia (UE)
Some  members of the  Village Savings and Loan Association holding their saving cards in group picture
Some  members of the  Village Savings and Loan Association holding their saving cards in group picture

The Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) intervention, introduced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) , under the Ghana Environmental Management Project (GEMP) in many communities in the Upper East Region , has led to the improvement of food security in majority of households in the Region

This came to light when the Regional Director of the EPA, Mr Asher Nkegbe, undertook a monitoring visit to some communities in the region with some media personal to see how the project was fairing.

Recounting some of the success story of the VSLA intervention to the team , the Secretary to the Nayagnia VSLA group, Ms Janet Pwamang , explained that through the intervention members who are mostly women have been able to take loan from the savings they make to help themselves in various ways which had helped improved upon the economic livelihoods of their families.

She cited for instance that one of the major benefit as women groups they had derived from the intervention is that in every farming seasons women in the group are able to take loans to procure farm inputs to undertake farming activities.

“This year for instance through the intervention, many of the women in this group took loans from the Scheme and procure farm inputs such as fertilizer, seeds and also hire bullocks for ploughing their farmlands . This has led to the increase of food production as many of us harvested bumper harvest in the areas of millet, maize and beans among others. ”

She stated unlike before where majority of them used to sit idle particularly during the dry season, now they are able to engage themselves in petty trading such parboiling of rice, pito brewing, animal and birds rearing, pepper and tomato selling among others to support their husbands take good care of the family.

“Another unique thing about this VSLA intervention is that, majority of the women in the groups are able to pay their children school fees up to Senior High and the tertiary levels. We have another five of such formed groups here in the Nayagnia communityand all the women are enjoying similar benefits from the concept. Unlike before, we no longer go to the banks and people to scratch our heads before getting support”

Whilst commending the EPA , the GEMP and the World Bank for supporting the project by forming and building the capacity of the women to begin the VSLA, , the Secretary of the VSLA group appealed for the intervention to be extended to other communities to help improve upon the livelihoods of such communities.

The Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) is a group of people who save together and take small loans from those savings. VSLAs are self-managed groups that do not receive any external capital and provide people with a safe place to save their money, access small loans, and obtain emergency insurance. The approach is characterized by a focus on savings, asset building, and the provision of credit proportionate to the needs and repayment capacities of the borrowers. Groups are low-cost, simple to manage and can be seen as a first step for people to reach a more formal and wider array of financial services.

.The Regional Director of the EPA who is also the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification(UNCCD) National Focal Point, explained that the VSLAs were established under the GEMP , funded by the Canadian Government, to increase the resilience of rural communities to the impacts of climate change.

“Its goal is to increase the capacity of vulnerable households in the Northern Savannah ecosystem to adapt to climate variability and therefore improve their resilience to climate change”, he stated.

Mr Nkegbe who explained that the EPA under the GEMP introduced the concept of savings and loan services to sixteen (16) communities and facilitated the formation of VSLAs comprised of thirty (30) persons per group, stated that the communities between 2014 to 2016 netted savings of GH₵201,810.15 which is equivalent to 50,452 US dollars.

He stated the GEMP also built the capacity of the VSLAs to elect members to serve as officials, set terms of reference for savings and accessing loans. The terms include interest rates, repayment schedules and penalties for late payments, lateness to meetings and missed meetings. The group is also trained in record keeping, savings, issuance of loans and general issues relating financial management.

“ We are happy that through the concept, majority of the women in the region are now able to engage in alternative livelihood activities, buy foodstuffs during the harvesting period to store and retail during the lean season in order to make profit, pay school fees of their children in schools, pay their health insurance premium and overall sustain the improvement of their living conditions particularly the wellbeing of their children”, he stated.

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