Project status
Mongolia, Mozambique, Indonesia, Philippines and Cameroon, Kenya

Developing sustainable local communities 

People across the globe depend on natural resources to generate a income. But, in a world that has lost touch with nature, many of those methods are unsustainable.  

That's why we work with communities around the world to develop the skills and assets to benefit from natural resources and create sustainable livelihoods. 

In some cases, this might mean providing help switching to alternative sources of income, such as ecotourism.  

In others it could involve of better management of resources that communities have used for generations. For example, establishing 'no-take zones' to allow dwindling fish stocks to recover so that communities can rely on them for years to come. 

The role of community banking in sustainable livelihoods 

Community banking is also especially important in areas beyond the reach of mainstream financial services.  

We work to help communities set up self-help groups, enabling members to save and invest. We will either invest into a seed fund or will support the community to build up and manage the fund using entirely their own savings. 

The role of community banking in supporting sustainable liveliehoods

Inevitably, some conservation efforts restrict the use of natural resources, such as limiting cattle grazing within a protected area. Ensuring that conservation benefits to communities outweigh any costs not only increases the chances of success for wildlife, but is the right thing to do, protecting local rights and wellbeing, especially where poverty is high and livelihood options are limited. 

Community banking groups enable their members to save seasonal income for later investments or household emergencies. Women make up more than 88% of the membership of our community banking groups, and lead many of these savings groups.

They use their savings to set up new small enterprises, support their families, and invest in conservation, for example, a group in the Philippines contributed around $500 to upgrade a guardhouse to maintain their marine protected area. 

  • 88%
    of community banking group members are women
  • 50%
    of VSLA members in Cabo Delgado are women
  • 3
    VSLA groups are formed exclusively of women
  • Supporting sustainable livelihoods with Village Savings and Loans Associations

    The Our Sea Our Life project has helped set up local community banks. 

    Known as Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs), they’re 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.  

    We've 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. 

    VSLAs in Cabo Delgado, northern Mozambique

    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 three 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. 

  • 209
    VSLA members in Cabo Delgado
  • €20,000
    saved in VSLAs in Cabo Delgado
  • Empowering women with VSLAs

    My name is Teresa Tsotsane, as part of my job within my job Associacao do Meio Ambiente (AMA) for the Our Sea Our Life (OSOL) project, I get to witness first-hand, the positive impact of the OSOL project for the women in communities within my home country - Mozambique. 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. Biancha Amisse, proudly told me that the VSLAs have not only improved her day-to-day life but have also enabled her to dream. 

    Biancha Amisse sits in a fishing boat
    Biancha and Teresa slanding next to each other

    Biancha's story 

    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 couldn’t go. She then asked her mother to speak to Associacao do Meio Ambiente’s (AMA) 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 third 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. 

    Find out more about our community conservation work 


    Urgent action to stop the devastation of critical species and habitats by helping people and wildlife live better together, is the only way to save the natural world we love and depend upon. That’s where ZSL comes in, and where you can play your part.