International humanitarian agency CARE and Mars Wrigley are building on the success and learnings of their Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) initiative by building women’s social and economic empowerment in cocoa-growing communities in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.
Through an additional $10m investment from Mars, CARE will expand the VSLA programme beyond the 12,000 members Mars and CARE have supported through mid-2019. The target is to reach 50,000 more members in d’Ivoire and Ghana by 2025.
Globally, VSLAs are engines for development and transformation and facilitators of economic empowerment. Since its inception, CARE’s promotion of the VSLA model has formed a constellation of more than 330,000 groups, representing over 7 million members — the overwhelming majority women.
CARE and Mars have developed a VSLA model that includes a number of building blocks beyond standard savings and loans. The model starts by setting up VSLA groups comprising 15-25 members.
Once in place, these groups act as entry points in the community or through the farmer groups to support interventions in four areas over a period of three years.
FOUR AREAS OF INTERVENTION
These areas are financial inclusion and connections to formal finance; Entrepreneurship, supporting income growth and diversification; Gender-equality interventions at individual, household and community levels (including literacy); and a healthy family curriculum that promotes early-childhood development and child protection by engaging parents and households.
Research shows that participation in VSLA groups can contribute to the overall wellbeing of families, children and cocoa communities, by increasing women’s social and economic empowerment with the potential to more than double women’s average savings over a three-year period.
John Ament, Global Vice President, Cocoa, Mars Wrigley said: “The well-being of women in cocoa-growing communities in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana is a critical link to family food security and nutrition, education, health and child protection and drives the long-term prospects for a future of educated cocoa farmers.
“Based on CARE’s implementation of this approach for Mars since 2015, our ambition is that each element of the VSLA model will not only contribute to closing the gap to a living income for cocoa-growing households, but will also increase resilience and women’s confidence and strengthen local governance and child protection.”
Mars’ Dove brand first implemented VSLAs in collaboration with CARE and with support from the Jacob’s Foundation in Côte d’Ivoire. The programme grew in 2018 as part of Mars’ Cocoa for Generations strategy aimed at creating a quicker pathway for cocoa farmers, their families and their communities to thrive.
By mid-2019, 458 groups had been formed with 12,134 members — 80% of which are women — and a total of more than $700,000 in savings mobilised.
Michelle Nunn, President and CEO, CARE commented: “We are honoured to expand our collaboration with Mars. Their investment will significantly scale our VSLA programming in cocoa-growing communities in West Africa.
“With this expansion, thousands of women in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana will come together and — under their own leadership and with their own aspirations — realise critical improvements in their lives and those of their families and communities.”