They weave baskets from sisal fibre in striking patterns; they weave earrings with all the vibrant colours of Rwandan life; they host visitors for ‘A Day in the Life of an Artisan’ Experience Days. Now, the ladies of the Abumurava cooperative are saving for a better future.
Urwego Opportunity Bank recently delivered financial literacy training to Azizi Life staff. Ubuzima Bwiza Iwacu (UBI), Azizi Life’s ‘Impact’ NGO, has identified five groups to be pilots of a financial literacy and savings and credit scheme. The goal is to empower cooperative members to manage their finances, access credit for micro-business ventures, and reduce the financial shocks that arise from not having back-up savings. While the ladies of the cooperative are making a relatively good combined income from sales of their crafts and Experience Days, if regular savings are not made, any financial shock such as a collapsed roof from heavy rains or family member falling ill can be a serious cause of worry and stress.
A number of the women in the cooperative come from difficult backgrounds and have struggled with illness, poverty, and loneliness due to HIV/AIDS. They dream of a future where they have a cooperative house and a plantation of sisal. In the meantime, many of the ladies have more immediate needs that access to savings and credit will significantly help. Every month, each person will save 500 Rwandan Francs (around 50 pence or 58 cents) in a Savings and Credit Cooperative (SACCO) account. Whilst this may seem like a small amount, regular savings as a group will be of considerable benefit.
A study undertaken by researchers from Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) and CARE in 2011 rigorously evaluated the impact of savings and credit groups on rural households in Ghana, Malawi, and Uganda. Overall, savings and credit groups led to an improvement in financial inclusion, household business outcomes, and women’s empowerment. There was also evidence of improved resilience in villages affected by environmental shocks and households experienced improved food security and income. In addition, a study undertaken in Rwanda and published in the International Journal of Community and Cooperative Studies (Vol.3, No.2, June 2015) concluded that savings and credit groups are significantly correlated with economic development.
After the financial literacy training that the Abumurava cooperative received, seven ladies from the cooperative began saving. In their first year, they are focusing on small goals, having decided that they would like to purchase an extra mattress per family as well as saving to ensure that every family can afford their annual health insurance. In the following years they will expand their goals. With access to credit at an interest rate of 5%, these women will have the opportunity to multiply their income through additional micro-business ventures, benefiting not only their families but also the local community and economy. With increased income, they may then be able to purchase more land and employ workers for their fields, meaning more money going into the local economy. John Plastow, Program Director at CARE International says that
“savings groups meet the need for savings and credit at the very bottom rung of the world’s economic ladder. They create a platform from which [rural households] can advance to receive the more sophisticated financial services that they inevitably need as their resources, skills and confidence grow”.
In their time weaving together, the members of Abumurava support and encourage one another in many areas of life. Now, armed with their notebooks, cash box, and new understanding, they also have the tools they need to take charge of their business and household finances and be better prepared for the future.
If you are inspired by these possibilities, please join us in our vision of multiplying artisan income ten-fold by 2020: https://azizilife.com/impact/multiply/