Meet Elélé and Juliette.
Elélé and Juliette are from an artisanal gold mining community in Burkina Faso’s Centre-Ouest region. For the past year, they’ve been meeting with their neighbours each week to put a small amount of money into savings.
They’re part of IMPACT’s AFECCOR project which supports local artisanal gold miners and community members to establish Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs). Members meet regularly over one year to invest their money into their VSLA and loan their growing funds to group members. The interest paid on the loans goes back into the communal pot so group members see their savings increase over time.
First Year of Savings in 2022
The project supported 54 VSLA’s across five mine sites in the Centre-Ouest and Centre-Nord regions for a first year of savings between December 2021- December 2022. The VSLAs have over 1,300 members— including artisanal miners, farmers, shopkeepers, and community leaders. More than 80 percent of members are women.
With her savings, Elélé—an artisanal gold miner who has eight children—has been able to pay for her children’s school fees and books.
In the first year, members saved more than $131,000 USD across all 54 groups. Each member saved an average of $7.86 USD per month—a significant investment when compared to the local income. Based on IMPACT’s research across the two regions, men earn an average of $98 USD per monthly and women—only $28 USD.
The majority of members took loans from their groups—95 percent of women and 88 percent of men. Some members took out loans to invest into their businesses, such as Juliette.
Juliette purchased a donkey and cart with her loan. She makes and sells dolo, a traditional beer. With the donkey and cart, Juliette has been able to expand her business, becoming profitable.
Community Savings Build Economic Security
In addition to the weekly savings, members contribute a small amount each week to a Solidarity Fund which covers unexpected expenses like medication or funerals. The fund operates like an insurance which is often non-existent in rural communities or high-risk contexts.
Elélé says the group has made her community stronger and more resilient. They’ve been able to support each other in times of need.
Introducing access to savings and credit builds economic security and resilience in artisanal mining communities. VSLAs serve as an important entry point to local conflict resolution by supporting community solidarity, while at the same time promoting women’s empowerment and gender equality.
Access to financing, such as through VSLAs, helps break the link to predatory financing and illicit trade, and ultimately sets the scene for responsible artisanal gold supply chains.
Foundations for Peace is undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada
Note: edited to update membership numbers and collective savings.