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Stories from Village Savings and Loans groups in Rwanda

Posted on: Wednesday, April 7th, 2021

People with disabilities often struggle to support themselves and their families in Rwanda due to lack of training and education opportunities but also difficulties in accessing financial support such as loans.

In partnership with the National Union of Disability Organisations in Rwanda (NUDOR), we’re helping people with disabilities to earn a living and be financially independent through setting up village savings and loans groups. Find out more about this project (open in new tab).

Here are some stories that show how this support is helping to transform the lives of people with disabilities and their families:

Growing a business and confidence

Agnesta at home, holding her goat on a lead.Agnesta is a widow and mother of four. Agnesta and one of her children are both living with a disability.

Before joining the Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) group, Agnesta didn’t have enough money to feed her family and one of her children was forced to drop out of school.

However, after receiving a loan from the village savings group, she was able to buy grass to feed her cow and, as a result, the cow’s milk productivity increased from 2 to 5 litres, and she was able to repay her loan. With her second loan, Agnesta bought a hen. She increased her savings through selling eggs and was then able to invest in more livestock and rebuild the walls of her home.

Agnesta is very grateful for the financial support she’s received through the VSLA group, which has not only enabled her to grow a business, feed her family and provide school resources for her children, but has also improved her confidence and involvement in community life.

Angesta now knows she is able to access financial assistance if emergencies arise, without collateral or high interest rates. She’s planning to buy more livestock and to improve her house even further. Through being member of the VSLA group, Agnesta feels empowered to do more.

Finding security and ambition

Jeannette selling produce at the market.

Jeannette’s life has been transformed since joining a village savings group. Previously, she’d found it difficult to provide enough food to feed her family. She had tried to get a job working for neighbours, cultivating their land, but to no avail.

“I decided to join so that by saving, I would get the opportunity to access loans for a small business… now I am a seller of fresh food in our small market in our village and I am able to feed my family.”

Once Jeannette had access a loan through the village savings group, she was able to start her own business and get regular income. Now she’s able to support the basic needs of her family – food, health insurance and school resources for her children. She’s planning to expand her business and sell produce to restaurants and schools.

Reconnecting with the community

Ansilla selling her produce outside on a mat, including bananas.Ansilla cares for a child with a disability, which had previously led to her being withdrawn from her community. In the past, she cultivated a small garden for her family’s subsistence, but could not meet all of their needs.

After hearing about the Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLA) and how they could support a parent of a child with a disability like herself, Ansilla joined a local group so she could start saving the little money she earned.

After few months, Ansilla asked for a loan and she started a small business selling tomatoes in the market in her village. After paying back her first loan, she took a second loan to expand her business. Now, she sells cooked food, using ingredients like banana, onion and sweet potatoes, as well as produce.

Through accessing financial support at low interest rates, Ansilla has been able to buy a goat. She also knows that she can rely on the village savings group in an emergency. She’s planning on increasing her savings and investing in more livestock, to further expand her business.

Thankfully, the village savings and loans groups are continuing to meet and support one during the Coronavirus pandemic, whilst strictly abiding by social distancing guidelines. Together with NUDOR, we’ve developed and distributed accessible information about COVID-19, to ensure people with disabilities are well informed and can protect themselves from the virus. NUDOR has also been participating in various radio and TV shows to advocate for a disability inclusive response to the pandemic.

This project has set up 560 Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs), composed of over 14,000 people with disabilities and their caregivers. As a result, people with disabilities have improved economic resilience and increased involvement in community decision-making. Find out more about this project (open in new tab).

This programme is delivered in partnership with NUDOR, the National Union of Disability Organisations in Rwanda, and supported by the Scottish Government’s International Development Fund.

Images: 1st – Village Savings and Loans Association group meeting in Rwanda. 2nd – Agnesta at home, with her goat tied by a rope. 3rd – Jeannette selling produce at the market. 4th – Ansilla with her produce, outside her home.