Nyarugusu Refugee Camp
One year and a half ago, Stephanie didn't know Lea, and neither of them knew Simeon, nor Enrique, nor Celine. They were living their lives day-by-day, with their own loopholes and coping mechanisms, until they were brought together during a UNCDF-organized training with GNTZ (our field-based partner) on savings groups in a UNHCR multipurpose training centre. This center was established as part of the Kigoma Joint Programme's Youth and Women Economic Empowerment (YWEE) initiative. They were taught about life skills, entrepreneurship, budgeting, savings and record-keeping. This is where, Stephanie tells us, she and the other 19 refugees met and started their own savings group and decided to try to become entrepreneurs together.
As our team talked to this group, they were peeling and grinding cassava. Once the cassava has been processed, the refugees will make ugali - a staple food that both Burundians and Congolese living in Nyarugusu enjoy - and wrap it in banana leaves and sell it in the camp.
There are two main benefits of this activity:
Part of what they earn is invested in borrowing equipment for their business, like the bins to dip the cassava and the other materials that transform the cassava into ugali (shown in the photos). The remaining proceeds from their sales are distributed among the members for their personal and household-related expenses. Their children's education is a priority.
As a group, they meet every week to pool their savings and buy ‘shares’. Stephanie's group has decided that one share is equal to TZS 200, and members can deposit between one and five shares each week. They share out savings, along with any interest earned from lending between members, every 9 months, which is the standard duration of a savings group cycle. They would save more, they say, but the closure of the common market has shrunk their opportunities to sell, which has also reduced their income. When they share out, not all the accumulated savings are disbursed. One part is deposited in a social fund, which is there to support the members during hard times – paying for burial ceremonies and medical assistance, for example.
It is hard to believe but the members benefit more from the group than just the financial services it provides. Not only do the 20 members of this group work in the same business and save together for emergencies, they discuss their personal struggles and are there for each other when a member needs a hand to hold, like in a hospital bed.
When asked why they decided to start a second savings cycle, Stephanie laughs as if to say: "What kind of question is this? Isn't it obvious?" We then asked: “Do you plan to start a third cycle?” And in a tone that leaves no room for doubt, while still peeling the cassava on her laps, she responds with a resounding "Ndiyo!" ("Yes!")
UNCDF in Tanzania
In Tanzania, UNCDF's Financial Inclusion Practice Area (FIPA) team works to advance access to finance, strengthen savings, and improve financial capability in the Kigoma Region. Our target groups are small farmers, refugees and surrounding host communities, and our focus is women and youth.