Governing farmers’ groups with SILC
To help young farmers collectively produce and market their vegetables, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and WorldVeg Eastern and Southern Africa are teaming up to pilot a Youth Vegetable Business Hub in Arumeru District, Tanzania.
The hub for graduates of the VINESA project (“Improving Income and Nutrition in Eastern and Southern Africa by Enhancing Vegetable-based Farming and Food Systems in Peri-urban Corridors”) aims to increase the profitability of their farming activities in a sustainable way. The hub will help to scale out successive outcomes from VINESA by providing education on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP); promoting collective marketing to build strong business relationships; and strengthening inter- and intra-group relationships through the Savings and Internal Lending Communities (SILC) approach.
During a training course held in Arusha, Tanzania from 13-19 September 2017, Ms. Nyanyonyi Neke, a SILC Expert from CRS, explained to 15 representatives of five VINESA groups how to improve their social savings groups using SILCs, a model supported by Catholic Aid and its partners. “SILCs strengthen local savings and lending groups, commonly called Village Community Banks (VICOBAS),” she said. The method follows a structure for evaluating potential members, forming and registering SILC groups, ensuring SILC group leaders adhere to their obligations, and collecting and securing SILC proceeds (loan repayments, interests and fines).
The course participants will serve as SILC Village Teachers. Each received a CRS Trainer’s Guide with best practices to follow when recruiting members, establishing groups, and implementing all the necessary steps in the SILC cycle. Chief among these steps is transparency. Village Teachers need to be very clear and straightforward when collecting members’ savings and contributions, recording deposits and withdrawals in the cash ledger, and sharing benefits at end of each saving and lending cycle. This open-door practice will help farmers’ groups develop strong relationships among their members, leading to more trust, cooperation, and commitment as they carry out income-generating activities such as vegetable farming businesses.
Smallholder vegetable growers acting alone are sometimes unable to produce and supply a sufficient volume of vegetables of the required quality at the right time to meet continuous demand. “Farmers working in groups that have strong relationships among their members are likely to meet market needs much more readily, thus getting higher profits than individual farmers,” said Dr. John Macharia, VINESA Project Manager.
The SILC Village Teachers are now training their group members on this new way of saving and lending. Keeping accurate and transparent records for all financial transactions is a practice that will increase good governance in farmers’ groups. If these groups want to become preferred suppliers, they must offer their customers better quality vegetables with greater reliability than individual producers.
Story and photos: John Macharia