Paschaline is a farmer with MEDA’s Greater Opportunities for Rural Women (GROW) project in Ghana.
In order to provide for her household of five, Paschaline joined a women’s farming community group called Maaruviel, meaning “peace is good”.
Before joining GROW, Paschaline trained as a weaving apprentice. Overwhelmed with the demands of providing for her family’s needs, she was unable to save for a weaving loom to practice her craft.
Life was difficult for Paschaline and her family. Her husband was forced to travel to Southern Ghana to look for work in order to earn an income for their family. Therefore, she was often left alone to provide for children in the absence of her husband.
To make ends meet, Paschaline began farming groundnuts (peanuts), maize and millet, despite having very little knowledge of farming techniques.
In 2014, Paschaline heard about the GROW project. She heard about how the project helped women improve the availability, access and utilization of appropriate and nutritious food. She heard that this project would teach her good agricultural practices to maximize her crop yields.
At one of the GROW meetings, Paschaline was introduced to the concept of a Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA).
Village Savings and Loan Associations are informal saving groups that are popular in rural communities. A VSLA is a group of about 20 to 30 women who contribute a shared value into a savings fund usually once a week. The accumulated savings is given out as a loan to a member at a rate decided by the group. Normally, the GROW VSLA groups have their share-out close to the planting season to help them in their production. At the end of the share out, each member gets her savings plus interest on the loans given. VSLAs play an important role, especially in rural communities which often lack access to banks or microfinance institutions.
What is important to note, is that VSLAs do not normally receive any external capital: the fund simply grows over time as individuals contribute their savings and pay interest from their loans.
When Paschaline learned about the power of VSLAs from GROW staff, she decided to form a group in her community in northern Ghana.
Although Paschaline earns a small income, she is dedicated to saving with her VSLA.
Through her VSLA, she has borrowed GHS 300 (CAD 28) which she used to start brewing pito (a local drink). This contributed to her weekly income and allowed her to make her VSLA loan repayments.
Through the project, Paschaline also learned how to process soy into various foods, including soy chips, adding to her growing income.
Paschaline felt privileged to attend all the trainings offered by MEDA partner, Partnership for Rural Development Action (PRUDA) and the GROW team. These trainings inspired her and motivated her to continue investing in agriculture.
From the training, she learned valuable lessons on land preparation, germination tests, weed and pest control, planting processes, harvesting and threshing.
Paschaline used her new knowledge during the next farming season. With an increased understanding of good agricultural practices, she cultivated an acre of soybeans and harvested about 300 kg, which she sold for GHS 300 (CAD 84).
When asked how the project has impacted her life, she said, “I have not regretted joining the VSLA. Through the group, I have had capital to do so many trades. Even now I also buy groundnut, maize, beans and Bambara beans and store them for reselling when their prices rise.”
She added that she was earning more money now and was able to purchase a weaving loom to practice her first love.
Working as a weaver is the fulfillment of one of her biggest dreams.
She is now able to take care of her family needs even in the absence of her husband. She can pay her children’s school fees and renew their health cards. All of this can be done while still leaving her some time to engage in the weaving hobby that she loves.
Paschaline has even been able to purchase a bicycle, saving her time when she travels.
She continues to advocate for women in her community to join VSLAs and loan opportunities. She knows that when women have access to financing for their endeavors, their dreams can also come true!