Across 2SCALE partnerships, promoting financial inclusion is a key priority. While access to formal financial services remains a challenge for smallholder farmers in Western Equatoria State, South Sudan, Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) have proven to provide access to finance, as well as foster the inclusion of women in agribusiness, and other profitable businesses.
Currently, 25 groups are active in different villages, with an average membership of 24 members per VSLA group.
Most VSLA members also form the larger supply chain network for the maize value chain, making them key actors in Agribusiness Clusters active in the syndicated partnership between 2SCALE and the two business champions ( Eden Multipurpose Marketing Co-operative Society (EMMCS) and Nzara General Farmers Union (NGFU).)
As producer organizations, the two Business Champions produce and market about 100MT of maize per annum. They are self-help cooperative societies, formed to undertake agribusiness activities. The ambition of the two business champions is to enhance local maize production by engaging smallholder farmers at the grassroots level and adding value to the maize produced to avail affordable maize flour products. This will not only improve the farmers’ livelihoods, but these value-added products will meet the nutritional needs of the Base of the Pyramid consumers within and outside Western Equatoria state.
VSLAs as an avenue to increase maize production in Western Equatoria State, South Sudan.
For both Nzara and Eden cooperatives, accessing quality grain in sufficient quantities has been a challenge. The need to increase production is even more significant, now that the two have ventured into value addition whereby they sell maize flour instead of maize grain. On the other hand, most smallholder farmers are willing to venture into maize production, but access to inputs, land, and other resources continues to hinder their active engagement.
Among other interventions, the VSLAs have proved to enhance access to finance for smallholder farmers.
Nangbimo VSLA has a total of 27 members-17 females and 10 males. Initially, the primary motivation for joining was to save earnings for 'rainy days'. However, over time, many members have diversified their economic activities and engaged in small-scale trading, establishing micro-enterprises.
Rhoda Daniel Saratier, a woman in her late thirties is one of the members. She narrates:
The VSLA has been of great benefit to us. Apart from saving, we get to share ideas on how we can improve our lives through this group. We are also able to borrow and repay loans with interest. For instance, I took a loan of 5000 SGD ($8) which I used to buy maize grain. I milled it to make maize based bread which I sell within my locality. I made a profit of 10,000 SGD ($16) and I reinvested the profit into the bread business. Currently, I make the bread on Saturdays for sale only over the weekends, due to limited availability of maize grain. However, when the availability of the grain is high, I make the bread every day due to high demand from my customers.
For another member, Ms Marietta Augusto, acquiring a loan from the VSLA has seen her become actively engaged in the maize value chain.
During the last harvesting season, I took a loan of 5,000 SGD ($8) from our VSLA and used it to buy maize grain which I milled to get maize flour. I made sales of around 20,000 SGD ($33), which I used to repay the loan and buy some household items. After seeing how profitable this business is, I would like to keep doing it to earn a living.