WWF Supports Improved livelihoods through VICOBA

Posted on December, 05 2017

The first thing you notice when you look at her is a confident woman, a woman who looks to the future in a positive way, and who is willing to lead others towards that future
Shamilla Abdalla lives in Somanga Village in Kilwa Masoko, Coastal Tanzania. She has been a member of VICOBA (Village Community Banks) since November 2011 and she is the Treasurer for the Kasi Mpya group.
Thanks to this bold decision, her life has never been the same again and she has never looked back!
Her husband, Hamad, is not a VICOBA member although he explains that he is happy with what Shamilla is bringing to the family as a VICOBA member and he says he is ready and always supports his wife whenever needed.
He is happy that his wife is a member and he says both of them and their kids are benefitting a lot because Shamillah is a member.
“You know life in the village is not simple because people have no money. Everyone is struggling to make the little money they get. Businesses are not doing very well because customers are really. No one has a big business here, all we can afford are small scale businesses because getting capital is hard, we have no collateral we can use to secure loans and even if you do the business might end up dying because of lack of customers.” He says.
“When Shamillah decided to join VICOBA, I had no problem. We discussed it together and the first loan dividends that she got a year and half later we installed electricity in our house and improved the standard of our house to a cemented one which we couldn’t afford before”.
Before she joined VICOBA Shamillah had a small food vending business. She used to sell food to fishermen along the shores of the Indian Ocean at Somanga.
“It is a tough trade; it takes a lot of energy cooking in the scotching sun with fire blazing, and the profit is very meager!”
“Ohh, I almost quit, but I couldn’t because much as it was not enough, I needed the money”
Shamillah who has an ordinary secondary school education has had an interest in teaching for some time.
She used to help her colleagues who were getting ready to sit for qualifying tests at her village.
It is from this interest that she decided to start her own kindergarten classes in the two classes she has built from the loan she took from VICOBA.
Her classes have 30 students and each student pays 15,000 per month. Her business is flourishing and she is thinking about adding another class.
And the reason for this is that last year she had to turn down a few students due to lack of space.
Shamillah has three children. Her first born is in form three and two others are still in primary school.
The couple is however, also taking care of other two children. She says they can afford to take care of their children and other family members because of the financial support they get from one of them being a VICOBA member.
When their first born was starting Form One, she had to borrow some money from a friend because she couldn’t afford to pay the school fees.
But now, she says,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            that will not happen because they get not only enough, they also make sure that they save for a rainy day.   
Shamillah is not the only Vicoba beneficiary at Somanga village. Her group Kasi Mpya has a total of 30 members both males and females.
Their group started way back in 2011 following a visit from WWF officer who spoke and motivated them to form the group.
They later paid a trainer who came and stayed with them for two months and trained them on how to manage the VICOBA.
Each member has a different story to tell. But generally, their livelihoods have improved a lot compared to how they were before joining the VICOBA.
Some have increased their business capital, others have built better houses which have included installation of electricity.
And still others can afford to take their children to school and others, like Shamillah have even started their own businesses.
As a group, they have bought a piece of land and their plan is to build a community hall for hosting their events and renting out.
They also intend to establish a farm in the same land so that they can increase their income.
While members manage VICOBA and the funds collected through shares, WWF supports them in terms of capacity building.
Vicoba have changed the wellbeing of many people in Somanga as captured in Shamillah’s words:
“I would encourage every person to join these groups VICOBA, they are of great help. I wish all my relatives were members. It is very disgraceful to go and beg your relatives and friends for money when in need. They usually end up ridiculing you. But when you are a member of the VICOBA, you have a place to run to and get a loan. Nobody talks about it behind your back!”
WWF, through its Marine programme, has supported the startup of more than 146 VICOBA groups in Rufiji, Mafia, Kilwa, Temeke and Kigamboni and 140 more have been replicated in villages along the coast of the Western Indian Ocean since 2007.
According to Social Economic Development Initiatives of Tanzania (SEDIT), VICOBA has proved to be the most effective lending model in rural areas in African countries.
Niger, where the VICOBA scheme started in Africa  was founded in 1991 by CARE International.
Other countries where Vicoba have been established include Zimbabwe, Mozambique, West Nile Uganda and Eritrea.
This lending model was introduced in Tanzania by CARE Tanzania, Zanzibar Area Office (Jozani-Chwaka Bay Conservation Project) in 2000 and later adopted by other conservation and community livelihood support projects in Pemba and Tanzania Mainland.
The quick adoption and outspread of this model to various districts has been made possible by various development agencies.
But the alacrity with which VICOBA have spread would not have been possible had it not been for the good results it has shown in the areas where it was initially introduced. 

Some of the areas where the VICOBA model operates successfully in Tanzania include Zanzibar, Magu, Misungwi, Kibaha, Kisarawe, Ukonga, Simanjiro, Babati, Kiteto, Singida, Serengeti, Bunda, Ukerewe, Rifiji, Kilwa, Mafia, Temeke and Kigamboni. 
Sharifa (C) in a VICOBA Monthly Meeting at Somanga
© Joan Itanisa