Being a member of a VSLA has enabled me to create economic security. I have suffered from severe pain in my bones and legs since I was three years old. The pain can be intolerable and when it is worst, I cannot work for weeks – sometimes even for months - which makes it hard to plan ahead and develop a profitable livelihood.
I cultivate maize, beans and Irish potatoes but because of my disability I can only move with crutches so I have to hire casual labour to support me in planting and harvesting. Finding the money to pay the workers used to be very difficult but after I joined the VSLA I cover the expense with a loan and then repay it after the harvest. I have been a member of the VSLA for two years and during that period my income has increased considerably and I am now able to pay school fees for my children and invest properly in my business. When I joined the group, I could only afford to put aside RWF 200 but now I can easily save RWF 800 in a week. I am currently earning around RWF 10-12,000 in a month but I will continue to invest in my farming and hopefully I will reach a monthly income of RWF 20,000 within the next couple of years.
I have also been able to open up a bank account with the RWF 65,000 I received from the first VSLA share-out. I like the idea of having money in the bank where it is save from theft and not readily available for spending. I have wanted a bank account for a long time but before I joined the VSLA I did not have any money to deposit and I did not have the confidence to approach the bank. Having money in the bank makes me proud and the security of my savings keeps me stress free – even if I am not able to work for a month.
The VSLA is like a safety net, we trust each other and you know that the other members will support you in case of an emergency. In addition, I have learned how to improve my yield by using better farming techniques, which has also greatly contributed to higher earnings. For instance, I was advised to use manure to fertilise the soil so as soon as I became eligible for a loan from the VSLA, I took out RWF 20,000 and bought a goat. This was the first time I used manure and I almost could not believe the difference. My maize plants had never looked this good before, the cobs where much bigger compared to previous seasons.