In 2015, the women of Kpanashe in northern Ghana first learned about the concept of Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs), or groups that accumulate savings together and then use those savings as on-farm investment capital.
Through the Ghana Agricultural Development and Value Chain Enhancement (ADVANCE) project, funded by USAID and implemented by ACDI/VOCA, 50 women worked together to start saving money and to implement farming practices they learned during demonstrations. Eventually, they formed their own VSLA group called Suglo Mbori Buni, which means “to seek wealth and patience” in Dagbani. Within the first year, they had accumulated savings of GHS13,007, or roughly US$3,000.
The following year, their outgrower business failed to dispatch a tractor to plow their fields because the rains had not yet started in their area, and the ground was too dry. Left without services, the women grew concerned, especially knowing the importance of double-plowing to retain moisture in the soil.
With the formation of their VSLA—thanks to the Sung Foundation, a local community organization that received a grant from ADVANCE—the women had already learned to establish by-laws, implement savings and credit procedures, and use a lock box to secure funds. Using the savings from their VSLA boxes, they found another operator and paid cash to have their land plowed.
Bottlenecks like this are increasingly common as rainfall variability grows even more unpredictable. That’s why measures provided by VSLA groups, such as cultivating a safety net of savings, help farmers adapt to challenges and mitigate the impact of climate change.
To further the resilience of the Suglo Mbori Buni group and their community, ADVANCE brought representatives from Yara and Heritage Seeds and Input Supplies to demonstrate the importance of purchasing drought-tolerant seeds from the Savanna Agricultural Research Institute (SARI), instead of using grains. Over time, the group managed to earn enough money to reinvest in improved farming practices for the coming year.
ADVANCE has helped establish 214 VSLA groups like this one by partnering with the Sung Foundation, the Youth and Advocacy Rights Organization, Concern Universal, and Community Resilience. These VSLA groups benefit 4,890 smallholder farmers, including 1,420 men and 3,470 women. Through the ADVANCE project, 500 more VSLA groups are being established and are expected to benefit 12,500 farmers.