Sowing Seeds & Seeing the Fruit
The 24 members of the Rio Jolomche savings group joined together as part of Trickle Up’s Inclusive Livelihood Development in Tamahú project in partnership with the municipality of Tamahú and Newton Running.
These women were selected because they lived in extreme poverty and vulnerability. Some of them have children with disabilities, and most belong to the indigenous Poqomchi community. They told us, “Everyone in the group is poor, but poverty has different faces in each family.”
Previously, the women had never imagined they could save, not to mention give loans to one another. At first, they were worried about where they would find enough money to both save and provide for their families. Living in extreme poverty, they could only scrape together enough to get by day to day, and often even that wasn’t enough. With seed capital and training, the members of Rio Jolomche have started to set aside a little money each meeting to buy shares in the savings group.
Members save through the purchase of shares in their savings group, effectively increasing their savings by a small amount each week. Like other Trickle Up savings groups, Rio Jolomche established a set of rules to ensure members participate, save, and respect the process and each other. Based on a collective decision, they determined the price of a share in the savings group and agreed to attend all meetings, be on time, sit in order according to their assigned number, buy at least one share at each meeting, and pay the interest on any loans they take within the agreed-upon timeframe. If they do not comply with these rules, the savings group members have agreed to pay a fine. At the end of the year, the group’s accumulated savings, interest on shares, and fines collected are given back to participants as dividends, according to how many shares they each hold.
“As we already have the knowledge of the methodology and its benefits, it is up to us to use it. We have promised to save and contribute our part [to the social fund],” they told us. The social fund is used as a small insurance plan to help each other out in times of need.
Rio Jolomche’s administrative committee was elected from and by the 24 members. The group chose the few women who know how to write to form the committee. They are in charge of the money, accounting, and leadership of the group, ensuring that everything is done correctly. The woman chosen to be the registrar said she is aware of the responsibility given to her and she concentrates intensely when counting members’ savings and shares because she doesn’t want to get confused. Despite the pressure, she is very happy to have learned to work together with the other women in the savings group.
Just five months after forming, the Rio Jolomche Savings Group had saved $822.50 collectively.
They used these loans to buy food for their family and invest in their businesses. The women also had a balance of $30 in the social fund, after recently providing support to a member who had fallen ill and couldn’t work.
One of the greatest benefits, from the members’ perspectives, is their increased access to credit via the savings group. They now manage loans easily, ask for financial help from the group when they have problems, and earn interest off their savings. The group has agreed to prioritize giving loans to the women who need them most, and granting loans based on the available funds. One member says, “When we have an emergency and need money, the group gives it to us. That does not happen anywhere else, nowhere do they give us money quickly and easily.”
Over the course of a year, the 25 members of Rio Jolomche collectively bought 1,266 shares in the savings group of $1.31 (Q10) each. From members paying interest on loans and fines, they collected an additional $1,258 (Q9,559), for a total of $2,923 (Q22,218).
When savings were distributed at the end of the first cycle, participants received between $50 (Q368) and $226 (Q1,667) each, according to the number of shares they had purchased during the year. One participant said, “It’s like sowing a seed and seeing the fruit.” The women used these savings to invest in their future success. Some fixed their homes, others diversified their businesses, or bought clothes and shoes for their families.
Group trainings have helped strengthen the women’s solidarity. After joining the group, they learned to work together and trust one another to advise on issues they all face. For example, when they began planning their businesses, according to one participant, “we were inspired by what others were doing, which strengthened our ideas.”
Now that they are all in a savings group together, they often stop in the village to greet one another and talk, which they rarely did before. They have become more confident, and are more active and vocal in their community. They can better manage and assess their resources, and told us they like the savings group methodology, its simplicity and its functionality, and the fact that the group is collaborative and easy to understand. Some members said, "The group is an opportunity to change and improve… It’s a new idea that has worked in the community."
Participants appreciate the opportunities offered by the savings group that they couldn’t find elsewhere, such as access to low-interest loans and a safe place to save close to home. The women see Rio Jolomche savings group as having a long life, and said they’d continue to save "until death stops us." 96% of members in Rio Jolomche elected to continue in the group.
You can also read the individual stories of four of the young women from Rio Jolomche: Carmelina, Aurora, and Petronila. With support from Newton Running, Trickle Up, and our local partner, these women have become more active, independent members of their community and lifted themselves and their families out of extreme poverty.
Rio Jolomche Savings Group, Guatemala
Learning to save, supporting each other, building a community