I was in Mozambique recently doing a recollection and some focus group interviews with our Village Savings and Loan (VSL) groups. It had been raining quite a bit before I arrived which made reaching some of the groups a bit more difficult. At one point we got completely stuck and had to walk a few kilometers to reach one of the groups.
We do these interviews for a couple of reasons: First, we want to measure improvement over the life of the project – in this case the VSL cycle which is 11 months. Second, through our focus group interviews we can dig down a bit deeper to answer questions like, “why do you participate in the VSL?” and “what are you going to do when you get your savings back.”
The answer to “why do you participate in the VSL” was interesting. Almost all people responded in a similar way. They said that saving at home is a lot harder than saving in a group because when you put money away at home there is always the temptation to use it for something, or help someone out if they need to borrow money. Women find saving money in the house particularly hard because in a lot of cases the men control the finances and so they might put money away, but their partner might then take it and spend it. In a VSL group people understand that they will not have access to their savings until the end of the cycle. Because there is no ready access to formal banking services, people are using the VSL program to put away all their savings because they see it as a good and safe way to secure their money.
During this visit I was also able to visit some of the health activists that Project HOPE trained on our health curriculum. They are all doing really well, and going through each of the lessons weekly with the groups. One nice thing that I saw was that there were discussions taking place as the health activist asked questions – people were engaging and debating the answers. This is a huge step forward, as in the past people were told what was right or wrong and it wasn’t acceptable for them to ask questions.
In 2011 we will be continuing to roll out our VSL program further benefiting more vulnerable households as well as implementing a new project starting before Easter. From all of us here in Mozambique we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
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