Mr. Mustapher Labbo is the Budget Director for Birnin Kebbi LGA who attended one of the PROACT Review meetings where women who participated in VSLAs from different communities shared their testimonies of how belonging to the groups had empowered them to start and run different small businesses. When he came back, he briefed his chairman and other LG stakeholders who were equally excited and encouraged such initiative. An official request was written to PROACT/Oxfam for support which was approved with training of field officers (FOs) and supervisors from 15 LGAs as each represented a community in non-PROACT locations. Each of the FOs were made to form 10 groups making 150 in Birnin Kebbi as we targeted 350 households. In his voice:
I first heard about Village Saving and Loan Associations at the 2017 PROACT Annual Review Meeting held in Abuja; during the testimony session where Community women groups shared their stories with heart-warming excitement. Being one of the government stakeholder attendees, I saw with my own eyes the positive impacts of the VSL Methodology had served the rural women and their communities. I saw the prospects for more sustainable social cohesion, financial inclusion and transformational leadership that could happen by virtue of the programme. This motivated my subsequent discussion for the replication of the component with the State Coordinator of Kebbi PROACT Project, then the local government officials and all agreed to support.
The training was given to existing staff of the local government while their initial roles were given to others. Initially, there was no transport support from the LG for all FOs and myself but we continued anyway. When we got a new LG Chairmen, who was a former food vendor to PROACT which supported community members during lean season, he was touched as he appreciated how the project reach out to people in need and bring them out of poverty. He helped in writing the Governor to support the programme. The Governor was glad that such a programme can reach “the masses”, he approved the purchase of 15 motorcycles for FOs’ mobility. As the Governor heard more success stories from the groups, he also approved a Hilux van and additional 200 VSLA kits for the programme.
The new Chairman occasionally participates in joint monitoring of the progress where he listens to the life changing stories from the people. This also made him to come up with replication of food loan program which is another successful life changing programme from PROACT. This has commenced with selection of 5250 households and 60 grain bank for storing them when returned during harvest. The programme is amazing and each of the participants has a similar progress with the other. To wrap the system up, the local government has also signed up to Social Investment and Empowerment Programme(SIEP) which will now launch and drive different kinds of social protection and empowerment strategies for the community members.