Feb 2013 11

Achieving independence: Community-based village savings and loan projects

Posted in Featured, News

Village savings and loans activities – or bol li cup (pronounced bol lee chup), as it is locally called – are a crucial part of our work. This work has been an impressive spinoff by our group members of our original work.  Essentially, our members took the proceeds of the projects that we supported them on – farming and brickmaking, for a start – and started rotating microfinance societies, all on their own.  It was a wonderful  self-reliance initiative.

Microfinance is popular across remote areas of northern Uganda, and involves group members – who have are unable to access banks– meeting every week to save funds together. The group’s savings are then loaned out to members to pay for entrepreneurial investments, as well as school fees and other major needs. They pay back with a small amount of interest, which is then shared out among members as interest in proportion to their savings at the end of each year-long cycle. For many of GRG’s group members, this is the first time they have ever saved. Kica Ber group at Abole recently ended the cycle and shared out the interest. One member – who was planning to use his payout to construct and extra hut – explained, “The bol li cup taught me how to save. Now I can save and spend when we open.”


Francis, a Phase 1 group member from Teetugu, Gulu District, trains GRG’s current groups

Bol li cup not only has this direct outcome of a safe place to save, and access to capital, but can play an important role in fostering reconciliation. Firstly, it brings members – mixing ex-combatants with other community members – together every week. This provides a forum for discussion, jokes, and new relationships to be built. As one member of Lubanga Lakica A group in Amuru District recently explained: “Despite losing many of our crops to intense heat… the boli cup project is still uniting us”. Moreover, bol li cup provides a place where members can learn to trust each other with money, and problem solve together when challenges occur.

Upon requests from group members, GRG recently further improved its bol li cup support by introducing a new passbook system. Most of GRG’s group members are illiterate, and the passbook system takes the complicated numbers out of saving! Instead, members save by buying ‘stamps’ (see example in picture below). Each stamp has the same value – maybe 1000 shillings ($0.35) – so members can save in multiples of that, making calculations much easier. Not only this, but it improves transparency, as the treasurer is not the only person keeping records of savings!


What a GRG passbook looks like, with an explanation page in case anyone forgets!

The passbook system has been very well received by the three groups who have been trained in it so far. In fact, Warib Cing A group in Padwat, Lamwo District, recently reported that other community members want to be a part of the savings system. The Chairman of the group, Okwera Simon, explained, “The provision of passbooks has motivated other community members to join us.  I believe they are sure records in their individual passbooks will clearly tally with that in the big book of the treasury which will lessen tensions that have been occurring before.”

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