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VSLA Turns a Family’s Fortunes
Written by: Priscilla Sogah
Financial freedom is undoubtedly the pursuit of most people, and CARE, through its Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs), is helping rural farmers like Joseph and Vida gain it.
Joseph and Vida, a couple living in Odikro Nkwanta in the Ashanti Region of Ghana, have been married for 20 years. During that time, Joseph has supported the family by looking after another farmer’s cocoa farm (serving as the caretaker farmer) to make a living.
The practice of working as a caretaker farmer is widespread in many rural farming communities. Individuals with no income take the role of caretakers, cultivating farmlands owned by others, in exchange for a portion of the produce or a fraction of the profit after harvesting.
Some caretakers (depending on the agreement between the land owner and the caretaker) can also grow their own crops on the farm for additional income, but the maintenance and cultivation of the land is the sole responsibility of the caretaker farmer.
Prior to CARE’s intervention in his community, Joseph engaged in this practice for about 10 years. However, in a quest to boost his family’s livelihood, Joseph joined a CARE VSLA.
According to Vida, Joseph’s income began to increase after he borrowed his first loan of GH₵ 500 ($112) to grow plantain and maize on the cocoa farm where he was working a caretaker.
Later, Joseph, alongside 109 other individuals from various communities across Ghana, received leadership training in order to learn how to provide continued support to VSLA members. Shortly after, Joseph assumed the chairman position for the ‘Nyame Nti’ VSLA.
During this period, Vida disclosed her reluctance to join the CARE VSLA after having had bad experiences with other savings groups in the community. Nonetheless, “My husband’s testimony convinced me to also join the VSLA,” she shared.
A few months later, Vida also joined the savings group and took out a loan to help fund the medical bills of the father, who later passed on. After recovering from this loss, Vida recognized the potential of the VSLA, and began thinking about how she too could work to boost her family’s income.
During the VSLA’s second year share out, Vida and Joseph received GH₵ 3000 ($674), which they used to acquire two acres of land to cultivate cocoa, maize and cassava.
When I visited their farm, the maize was growing steadily. It will soon be harvested, and the other half of the land will be prepared for cassava and cocoa cultivation. Vida and Joseph are looking forward to further yields from their farm and have hope that they will bring greater prosperity and opportunities for their family.