Keeping it together in Post-Conflict Côte d’Ivoire
In September last year, Sarah Ward of IRC shared an article she had written about VSLAs in Côte d’Ivoire as the villages faced election violence. Sarah told the story of one brave treasurer who buried her group’s metal box moments before she fled her village. When she came back she found her possessions stolen and her house burned to the ground; but she dug through the ashes, and unearthed the metal box with three locks intact; the group members got together and conducted a share-out, and were grateful to have some cash to carry on. Other groups told similar stories.
Sarah has looked back on this experience in an article published in USAID’s microlinks. She begins to draw some lessons about how groups should manage themselves to help them get through conflict or natural disaster. The lessons are simple, but important:
First, provide warnings and encourage planning, without creating panic. IRC did this in Côte d’Ivoire, and most groups who were forewarned decided either to call in all the loans they could and do an emergency share out, or else agree upon a secret hiding place for the cash-box, for after the conflict.
Second, recognize the need to adapt when restarting the group. There will be changes in membership, as not everyone will come back, and most groups lowered their share value after re-starting to reflect their tighter circumstances. Finally, groups became even more discrete when talking to outsiders about the their activities.
Finally, IRC Côte d’Ivoire is working with all groups to develop contingency plans in case of conflict. This seems like simply good sense, and is something that could be considered in other countries also.
There’s much more in the entire article, which is highly recommended.
Thanks to Sarah for sharing this, and thanks to microlinks for putting savings groups on their front page. That may be a first, and it is simply more evidence that savings groups are an important part of the financial infrastructure for many people, and will be around for a long time.