Each week, CREATE! cooperative members gather to manage their money in Voluntary Savings and Lending Associations (VSLAs). VSLA members save small amounts of money each week and then make loans to each other to cover business, personal, and household costs. Association members are able to save a portion of the profits they receive from participating in CREATE!’s cooperative community garden programs and reinvest those savings into other income generating activities. There are now more than 500 active VSLA members throughout CREATE!’s partner communities.

For rural residents who may not be able to read or write and whose needs are rarely met by for-profit financial institutions, Voluntary Savings and Lending Associations provides an appropriate and transparent system for group saving, lending, and social insurance. Khady Fall of Gagnick Mack says, “Our village is far from the city, but the VSLA helps us save money and make loans just like a real bank.”

Counting Voluntary Savings and Lending Associations money

VSLA members count members’ contributions. All funds are kept in a locked box, monitored by multiple key-holders.

During our recent visit to rural Senegal, we attended two meetings of the VSLA in the community of Diender. All participants respected VSLA guidelines that they learned during their initial savings and lending training three years ago. In addition, the Diender VSLA has developed its own meeting rules and lending procedures. Because Diender has graduated from CREATE!’s programs, all VSLA meetings are completely participant-run without help from CREATE!

Our programs empower women to assume positions of leadership in their cooperative groups and communities. Through our VSLA programs, women learn to manage and save their profits from the sale of vegetables and poultry. CREATE! programs foster economic resiliency and build capacity while helping women and their communities on the path towards self-sufficiency.

Maguette Diop, 40, has been a member of Diender’s VSLA for the past three years. She is proud of all of the knowledge that she has gained as part of CREATE!’s training programs in her community. She says, “CREATE! gives us the possibility of working to support our families without leaving Diender. In particular, the VSLA helps us save money and make loans to support our businesses. I have participated in the VSLA for many years and my savings always helps me solve household problems.”

Voluntary Savings and Lending Association secretary recording shares

Because VSLA members track shares using stamps, literacy is not a requirement for participation.