Adama Kamara is used to not having much privacy. She and her husband used to sleep in a single room with their four kids in a house located in Kadada village in northern Sierra Leone. Overcrowded housing is normal in Sierra Leone. It’s common for 10 people to share a room. For Adama and her husband, however, lack of space was not their only problem. They also struggled to afford amenities such as food, clothing, and school fees.
Saving and Investing Pay Off
The solution for Adama was learning how to save and invest, which she did in 2012, through her involvement with the USAID Food for Peace-funded Sustainable Nutrition and Agricultural Promotion (SNAP) program implemented by ACDI/VOCA. SNAP improves how people save and get loans in Sierra Leone through Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs). VSLAs offer a structured system of saving money and acquiring loans generated from group member contributions.
Adama joined a 30-member VSLA group in her community and benefited from five days of training. At the training, SNAP taught members how to save, how to manage money, and how to invest wisely. In Bombali district, where Adama’s community is situated, SNAP established 35 VSLAs. After SNAP closes, its VSLA program will continue to impact communities.
“We are ending on a very high note. I’m impressed with what communities have done through the support of the VSLA program. We are confident VSLAs will continue to serve these communities for years to come,” explains Alpha Mansaray, SNAP District Operations Manager in Bombali.
VSLA Helps Members Pay for Food and School Fees
Adama has certainly benefitted from her involvement with the VSLA. After completing the first ninemonth cycle, she received about $80. She used part of this money to send her children to school and then initiated a small petty trading business to earn a daily income that she uses to make her weekly contributions to the VSLA. After a second nine-month cycle, Adama was able to save $500.
“I cannot describe how important the VSLA is to me as it has had impacts on all aspects of my life,” Adama Kamara, Kadada Village.
SNAP has supported 170 VSLAs in four districts of Sierra Leone.
She used this money, plus the little profit she saved from her petty trading business, to build a fivebedroom home for her family that cost just under $2,000. She recalls how she worried that her former house would collapse. She shudders as she further explains that it actually did collapse several weeks after she and her family moved out. She thanks SNAP for empowering her to get her family out of a dangerous situation.