By Joseph Kamara, World Vision’s Regional Portfolio Manager
While in Burundi at the Gashoho project, it was quite inspiring to hear from community members about project activities that were changing their lives.
Especially to see how a little initiative can go forward using very basic amounts of money.
I met with locals who were benefiting from a World Vision community savings group that was assisting its members to raise money to make a living and improve the nutrition of their children in the process.
Community savings groups – how they work
The savings groups have a chair of the group and a secretary, and they collect money together. When the group reaches a certain amount of money, they invest it into a small income generating project to make more money.
So, for example, one of the groups I visited had invested in chicken farming. This is a good business initiative because they begin with very little money. One person would never raise enough money for the start up. But when they join as a group and they put money together and save, then they can start a business – that is quite nice. I think their chicken business will be very successful in my opinion.
Impacting sponsored children by raising chickens
To me, what the members were talking about was important – they were now able to have an income and if their child is not well, use the money to see a physician or a nurse to get treatment. If the child needs a book to go to school and the parent has the ability to pay for it; that makes a huge difference. Even the ability to put a school uniform on the child’s back makes a difference. These are some of the critical things that children in less developed communities miss out on. We take this for granted, yet it makes such a big difference when a parent has that form of empowerment.
Talking to the group members
Usually I talk to a few members to get an understanding of how they are feeling and how they’re progressing and what their struggles and challenges are. The critical issue for them was that they were looking forward to being empowered and getting out of their state of powerlessness.
Burundi is one of the poorest countries in Africa. It’s a small country of 27,830 km² (less than one-third the size of Tasmania) with a population of 10.16 million. You get to the capital and you feel you are still in the rural areas. The country is still recovering from decades of a civil war. Most of the people who sought refuge in neighbouring countries are just returning.
People have very tiny sizes of land to comfortably subsist on. So any small income they get makes a big difference.
How the savings group has improved their lives
World Vision, in this particular community, brought someone in who was running a chicken raising business in the capital – to supply chicks to these savings group members. And it wasn’t just one savings group that benefited, many savings groups participated.
This same supplier had actually found a market for when the chickens are ready; the market for food to feed the population is abundant.
World Vision had also linked the group to the local manufacturer of chicken feed so the members can have easy access. The group built a chook house with their savings and was able to buy more chicks as well.
To make the business self-sustaining, World Vision agreed to support the group on condition that the members of the savings group save enough money for the chicken feed to last three to four months, which is a huge commitment. As buying a chicken without the chicken feed is useless.
So what happens is, the community saving group members run small chicken farms and feed the chicken until a certain number of months when the chicken reaches a certain weight and are then sold at a profit. With the profit they buy other chicks and start again.
"I wouldn’t just say it; I know that child sponsorship is making a difference. Each time I visit the field I see it, if you doubt it, please come with me next time and see for yourself."
It’s very difficult for a sponsor to know that $48 they are paying is making a difference but when you get on the ground, that’s when you get shocked at how much just $20 or $40 can achieve. The value of accumulating those funds and using them wisely to address the community needs is transforming lives from poverty.
Want to read other stories like this? Read about how Child Sponsorship is helping reduce child malnutrition in Burundi.