Teresa Tsotsane from Our Sea Our Life (OSOL) project’s implementing partner in Mozambique AMA, wanted to share the inspiring stories of some of the women she has met so far who are members of the local community banks that OSOL has helped to set up. These are known as VSLAs (Village Savings and Loans Associations) and are a global and proven development model for self-help financial services, where groups of 10-25 people meet weekly to save money together. They then use the money they have saved to lend to one another - which they commonly use to invest in food, their houses and education. ZSL has taken an innovative approach in the Philippines, Mozambique and Cameroon that empowers VSLAs to inspire bold and inclusive conservation action for the future of members and their children.
OSOL helped set up these community banks in the fishing villages of Cabo Delgado, Northern Mozambique where, due to high population pressures, fish is an important food and income source. Currently women represent 50% of the VSLA members here (209 in total), and there are 3 VSLA groups which are formed exclusively of women. The VSLAs have so far been able to save around 20,000 EUR, they also provide opportunities for women to unite and to drive change, to invest in themselves and in marine conservation, enabling a platform for gender equitable fisheries management.
My name is Teresa Tsotsane, as part of my job within AMA (Associacao do Meio Ambiente) for the ‘Our Sea Our Life’ (OSOL) project, I get to witness, first-hand, the positive impact of the project for the women in communities within my home country- Mozambique. The last few months I have travelled to the communities and met some of the members of the local community banks that OSOL has helped to set up. I wanted to share the inspiring stories of some of the women I’ve met so far. The first story, shared here, is about a woman called Biancha Amisse, who proudly told me that the VSLAs have not only improved her day-to-day life but have also enabled her to dream!
Biancha is 42 years old and lives in Mbuizi village, near Quiwia and Quirinde in the Cabo Delgado province, Northern Mozambique. She found out about the VSLAs through her mother, who invited her to join a VSLA in Quirinde, but due to the distance she wasn’t able to go. She then asked her mother to speak to AMA's outreach staff to start a group in MBuizi. A list of interested people was made and the group was created. It is now in its 3rd year. As well as a suggestion from her mother, she was also already keen to save as she was unable to keep money in her home. She enjoys being part of the VSLA and says she will only leave when she dies! She has motivated people to join the VSLA in Mbuizi, which is now at maximum capacity (25 members).
The best part of being part of the VSLA group is that it allows her to dream! She never thought that she would one day be able to buy a bed, but now she has one. In the second year of saving (2nd cycle) she went to Nacala with her husband and built a house, now in the 3rd year, she has wood to build a house in Quirinde and metal panels for the house in Nacala. Biancha likes the friendship that exists in the group and the mutual respect among the members.
Biancha’s main livelihood is agriculture, and her husband’s is fishing. There are horticulture groups being created as part of the VSLA, and this is increasing the profits! She has noticed an increase in their income. Her husband now has boat and nets (which Biancha bought with her loans), and Biancha has been able to pay people to help with agriculture activities, and there has been a reduction in spending for food as she has been able to provide food from her own production for the whole family. She is now more sensible with money too, as she aims to save enough to be able to build a house.
There was a big party with food for the last VSLA distribution and the morale is high! The money from the distribution enabled her to invest in building materials for the house in Quirinde and in Nacala.
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