Savings Share-Out

At the end of a savings cycle (typically 12 months), groups share out individual savings plus the interest earned during the course of the cycle. In SILC groups, the typical size of share-outs is between $1,000 and $1,500 per group (with an average of 30 members per group).  In VICOBA groups, the typical size of share-outs is between $1,500 and $3,000, with most group members making an average of $50-$100 per cycle. Focus group discussions of graduated groups, carried out by CRS-Sierra Leone and Floresta-Tanzania, revealed that members often use savings share-outs for activities that are linked to overall household food security and well-being.

1. Agriculture: Some members used their savings to buy inputs (seed, tools, and chemicals), as well as to also hire labor to prepare land or to rehabilitate plantations. A significant proportion of the participants admitted that their share-out helped make significant changes. Some members increased their plot sizes, while others increased the quantity of their planting stock. The net effect was typically an increase in production and food availability. One woman pointed out that:

I used my savings to plant rice in my swamp, I used the part of the harvest to provide food for my family and sold some of the harvest to pay for educational expenses for my children.

2. Business: Predominately, business is centered on agricultural produce. However, imported clothing and food items are also traded in communities where the focus group discussions were conducted. A profitable business can provide additional income for a household which can result in increased access to food. A woman in one of the focus group discussions noted:

I use the profit of my business to provide food for my family in the hungry/raining season.

3. Start-Up business: Some members with trained skills used their savings to buy tools and set up workshops. A carpenter in Kigbai village in Sierra Leone was able to buy tools with his share-out package to set up a carpentry workshop. When asked what he did with his savings in the group discussion, he said:

I bought tools and set up my own carpentry shop; now I am able to give my wife some money to start trading in palm oil and can now raise money to pay fees for my children.

4. Education: Many members use their savings to enroll their children in school, which they previously could not afford due to the high interest rates charged by moneylenders. In Sierra Leone, tuition fees increase substantially from primary to secondary school and from secondary school to university. The group savings are sometimes large enough to pay for the bulk of these fees and are therefore essential to many rural families who normally have little cash income.

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