Catholic Relief Services partners with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in a savings and loan program in the east African nation of Malawi. The successful was recently highlighted on USAID’s website:
The mood was high as three village savings and loan (VSL) groups gathered in Zaloengera village, Malawi, for their end-of-year “share out,” the time of year each individual receives their earnings as a VSL shareholder. Group members were excited to be receiving their money—with interest.
Only three years ago, many of the VSL participants couldn’t dream of saving a few Kwacha, the official currency of Malawi, much less starting their own small business or expanding their crop production enough to sell to major buyers.
In 2009, that all changed when USAID/Malawi designed a development food assistance program implemented by a consortium led by Catholic Relief Services (CRS). The program tackles food insecurity through a variety of interventions, including VSLs, by challenging the notion that the poorest individuals can’t help themselves out of hunger and poverty. In a country where over 60 percent of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day and is affected by recurrent natural disasters as well as poor harvests, this was hard to imagine.
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