Hundred and sixty smallholder cashew farmers from Moria, Lal-pate, Mathankan and Amputee communities in Port Loko district northwest of Sierra Leone have mobilized 92 million Leones (9,200 dollars) as savings to enhance their livelihood and improve living conditions within their communities.
Under the EU funded BAFS Project Sierra Leone implemented by Solidaridad West Africa and The Cotton Tree Foundation, the smallholder farmers received training on the Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) scheme and provided the necessary logistics including savings boxes, calculators and other stationery to support and foster a self-reliant savings culture within these communities.
According to Mariatu, a smallholder farmer and Chairperson of the Moria Farmers VSLA, the scheme has been transformational because it has allowed her to access loans to pay for the educational expenses of her children which used to be a problem for her.
To foster sustainability and growth by creating valuable institutional linkages for financial resource mobilization for smallholder farmers, the Head of Credit, Ecobank Microfinance was invited by the project to understand how the VSLA scheme works and how smallholder farming groups can be integrated into a more formalized financial structure to access improved financial services.
Andrew Kojo Morrison, Technical Advisor at Solidaridad in Sierra Leone, said as part of the transformative support to boost the savings ability of the farmers the BAFS project had supported them to cultivate 458 acres of cashew plantations by supplying them with cashew seedlings, farming tools, as well as food crops for intercropping. The intercropping he said has helped the farmers to earn additional income from the sale of crops like groundnuts which helps them to save.
The Boosting Agriculture and Food Security (BAFS) project is funded by the European Union in Sierra Leone in partnership with the Government of Sierra Leone. The project is implemented across 12 districts and continues to empower smallholder farmers through transformative actions including the VSLA.