The village savings and loans associations (VSLAs) formed under the Power to the Fishers (PTF) Project have raised an amount of GHS 104,820.00 in their first cycle of savings. A total of 15 VSLAs from nine (9) fishing communities (having a total membership of 274) raised the said amount in 12 months (April 2021- March 2022). The beneficiary communities (which are all coastal) for this intervention are Senya Bereku, Mumford, Mankwadze, Dago, Akra, Otuam, Ekumpoano, Shama Apo and Kesewokan- located in the Central and Western Regions.
The VSLAs were formed in the target communities following a baseline survey conducted to assess the social protection needs of intended beneficiaries. The study revealed that social protection services of interest to these communities were finance (savings and credit) and health insurance. However, access to credit was a big challenge, and its limiting effect on livelihoods was well lamented. Additionally, high interest rates and rigid repayment schemes kept fisherfolk from pursuing loans. In navigating the above issues, the PTF project in consultation with the project beneficiaries adopted the VSLA model to address the existing savings and credit services concerns.
The VSLA scheme has increased social protection and financial inclusion for fisherfolk particularly fishmongers who form the bulk of sector players. The scheme allows group members to own and manage their own small bank and develop terms and conditions favorable to their economic conditions. In its structure, the VSLA has a management regime in place with 6 executives comprising of the chairperson, 2 record keepers, 2 money counters and the box keepers. These executives ensure the smooth running of the group and the adherence to stipulated rules and regulations. Members, on a weekly basis, are required to purchase between 1–5 shares and contribute to a social fund which caters for their welfare needs.
The total loans disbursed by the 15 VSLAs amount to the tune of GHS 50,155. These loans come with a service charge ranging from 5–10%. Only group members can access these loans. The service charge, pre-determined by the group at the start of a cycle, are low to allow for easy repayment. The growing demand for VSLA lies in its inherent security systems, ease in accessing credit, and flexible repayment of the loans. The loans given out to group members have been utilized in facilitating fish trade, expand business operations, cater for educational needs of wards, among others.
The PTF project is a 4-year sustainable fisheries management project focused on enhancing the socio-economic livelihoods of fishing communities within selected districts of the coastal savannah zone of Ghana. More specifically, the project is promoting the adoption of energy-efficient smoking technologies, building fishmongers’ capacity on appropriate fish handling & hygiene practices, climate resilience, as well as facilitating access to social protection services. The target beneficiaries include fishmongers and fishermen within the Awutu Senya, Effutu, Gomoa West, Ekumfi, Shama districts. The project duration is June 2019 through to February 2023. The PTF project is implemented by CERATH Development Organisation with funding from the European Union.