“We have a low standard of living here. We don’t have access to financial support to improve our businesses and make lives better for our families.”
Paul Nato, a 39-year-old father of three in Sanwoma of the Ellembelle District in the western region of Ghana, works hard to support his family. He makes his living cultivating vegetables and snails for the local market on his small plot of land. According to Paul, making a profit is challenging due to lack of financial resources that support livelihood improvements. “Our standard of living here is far below other places. We don’t have access to financial support to improve our businesses and make lives better for our families. We can’t borrow from a bank”, he says.
In partnership with Ghana’s Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development and Fisheries Commission, USAID’s Sustainable Fisheries Management Project (SFMP) is working to address the lack of capital that Paul and others face in coastal villages across Ghana. SFMP has been introducing Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) to help diversify and grow local fishing communities’ economies. With SFMP support, seven new VSLAs are operating with a total membership of 222 people in seven communities in the western and central regions. A VSLA brings together community members who save for mutually agreed upon objectives. Individuals then take out small loans from those savings.
Paul Nato has already borrowed from his VSLA and is excited about what he has been able to do with the small loans. “Through the association, I borrowed GHC300 (US$68) to expand my snail farm and buy fertilizer for my vegetables. In the past, this was very difficult. Last year, my brother, Isaac Morkeh, also secured a loan of GHC585 (US$131) to buy a new fishing net and also used part of the money to support his wife’s fish processing business.” Paul and Issac, like many other member of VSLAs, are optimistic about their futures. “Thanks to the USAID Sustainable Fisheries Management Project, our VSLA is also supporting development of my 7-acre rubber plantation. I am planning to cost-share with another member,” says Paul.
“We are pleased to work with communities on the Village Savings and Loan Associations” says Adiza Owusu from Hen Mpoano, a local NGO partner of SFMP. “We hope that the VSLAs enable people to contribute to their own livelihood improvement efforts, such as fish post-harvest processing and supplemental agriculture.” “I wish my community was introduced to the Village Savings and Loan Association earlier,” Paul observes. “I would have done even more.”
—Nii Odenkey Abbey