Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Reflection from the Field…

Today, I had the chance to observe the first meeting of the first formed group of Dutabarane’s “Shigikirana Savings & Credit” program. Dutabarane – a local partner organization of World Relief in Burundi promoting HIV/AIDS education and prevention awareness in churches - is launching a savings-led program to promote savings and credit associations. This type of community-managed development initiative in which groups of people, primarily women, form and develop an internal savings fund intends to
1.) provide a safe and effective mechanism for members to deposit their savings, particularly in rural areas where accessibility to banks or MFIs is limited, and
2.) provide an internal lending fund in which group savings can be lent out to group members to support business expansion, consumption needs, and life cycle events.

The savings group we observed today is called “Turemeshanye”, which means “We comfort each other.” There are 13 members of the group.

According to their constitution, the group will meet every Wednesday to save and issue small loans from their savings to members. One “share” (the minimum a member must contribute each meeting) is 350 Burundian Francs ($0.30). Some members at this meeting bought multiple shares – up to 5! The total savings fund of the group after one meeting is 8,850 Burundian Francs (about $8). Of this, 600 Francs is designated for the “Social fund” – a fund to be consistently contributed to by all members for use when a member has an emergency situation and needs a small grant.

Policies regarding fines have been set by the group members for such things as arriving late or missing a meeting. Even the Secretary at this meeting had to pay a fine for incorrectly following procedure!

What is impressive is how responsive this group is to this methodology; after only a short training period, they seem to clearly understand the procedures and set up of how to conduct operations. The program staff's presence today was to monitor and advise the leadership committee as the share purchase activities took place. The members – already – are taking control of the operations and management of the group! Everything – the process, the funds – is owned by them! They have even committed to purchasing the “kit” (lock box, stamp, passbook, etc.) that Dutabarane has supplied by making regular installments to Dutabarane. There are no subsidies, no hand-outs in this program. The role of Dutabarane is to work through local churches to guide & EMPOWER people to find their own solutions and use their own means in addressing their poverty! The potential for achieving significant depth and breadth of outreach with a very church-centered, sustainable approach is incredibly exciting!

In the walk back to our vehicle after the meeting was over, I spoke with the Acting Pastor of the church (who is also participating as a group member in this group). He had these comments to give regarding the program:

“This program is very important to helping people out of poverty. We need this program in our churches. Christians understand this program, but we have to educate church officials about the importance of it. Already, pastors from other churches in this area have approached me asking how they can get this program into their churches. I tell them – go to the local Dutabarane office!”

I am very excited & blessed to witness and be able to support the implementation and expansion of Shigikirana over the next year. In addition, I am excited to see World Relief launch similiar initiatives around the world & to see the impact of those programs in the churches & communities where we work!

I hope you are blessed by this note from the field…

~ Wendy

Desk Officer, Economic Development @ World Relief