There is always a problem of income security in most rural communities in the northern regions of Ghana. Culturally there is a joint responsibility between men and women to manage homes in these villages. While men only provide raw food stuffs, women are expected to provide ingredients for all year round household expenses. Therefore women are mostly affected with variable incomes as they need more incomes to support household
The USAID Smart Agri Finance project
The implementation of the USAID-SAF essentially was to increase commercial opportunities for smallholder farmers who are primarily women in targeted agriculture value chain through improved access to affordable financial services. This was because many rural and agriculture values chains are not benefiting from the innovations in the financial sector in Ghana. Peace for Life was one of the partners that supported the lead implementers (SNV/Fidelity Bank) to increase access to financial services to improve agriculture trade in the northern region. The assignment of Peace for Life spanned for the period November 2017 to July 2018.
Within this implementation period Peace for Life facilitated the opening of 4,093 Fidelity Smart Accounts. This was done in 54 communities covering 7 districts of the Northern and Upper East regions. Women were the major beneficiaries of these accounts and represent over 80% of the total recipients of the bank accounts. The accounts have increased the abilities of smallholder women farmers to increase their savings towards investment in their farming and other household needs. The absence of mobile phones among women and the high illiteracy levels culminated in part to reduce the speed at which accounts were opened in the various communities.
Three hundred and thirty nine (339) out of the total accounts opened have been set on the mobile banking. This has aided the women to instantly connect with their bank accounts for balance enquiry, airtime top up and the transfer of funds. Eight Fidelity Agents were set up in 8 communities. While 12 existing Fidelity Agents were linked with holders of Smart Accounts. The availability of Agent points granted immediate access to savings points for farmers to deposit and withdraw monies at their convenience without travelling long distances. This has reduced the cost of savings related to travel and increased the frequency of savings in bank accounts.
Over 4,000 farmers were reached with information on financial literacy. This included information on savings, insurance, security of savings, fraud, cash management and banking related products. This broadens the horizon of beneficiaries to see beyond their immediate needs to save for both medium to long term needs.
Opening of smart accounts for over 1000 smallholder farmers and SMEs in west mamprusi.(SNV/USAID Smart Agri finance project,2017).
Village Savings and Loans (VSLA)
Peace for Life Ghana also recognizes the Village Savings and Loans concept (VSLA) as a tool for women financial self-reliance. VSLAs have been well received since being introduced in northern Ghana. They are a popular model because it is community-based, so any interest paid on loans goes back into the community instead of into the pockets of a bank, and it is a simple model which illiterate people living in poverty can engage in. Even those who are living in poverty are able to be members of a VSLA because they are required to contribute only a small sum each week. However, after the year’s cycle, each person receives their savings and they have a significant sum.
For an individual living in poverty, receiving a lump-sum of at least 200 cedi enables them to invest in their families, households, and livelihoods.
Membership of a VSLA is empowering for women. Each week they take ownership of their finances when they buy shares, the group supports one another through a sense of unity, members can respond to unexpected events by taking a loan (for example, to pay healthcare costs), and their savings received at the share out enables investment in the wellbeing and future of their household. We have formed twenty (20) VSLA groups of a total membership of six hundred (600) in ten (10) communities.
Training on Quality Shea Nut Processing
Training of over 1,000 women on quality Shea nuts and butter processing methods in west mamprusi as well as facilitating market linkage .(Global Shea alliance and Shea network Ghana support program), 2016.
PLG is currently looking for funding support to build a shea nut and butter processing center for the women in order to help them generate more income for themselves to improve their socioeconomic well-being.