Hurtful climate changes are no stranger to Sierra Leone in recent years. The heavy downpour of rains that lead to flooding and destruction of human lives and properties; mudslide/landslides; and unpredictable weather conditions that negatively affect farmers are some of the ways the country has been suffocated by climate changes. Some of these harmful climate changes are unfortunately triggered by Sierra Leonean citizens.
In a study undertaken by WASH-Net, Ministry of Water Resources, Freetown WASH Consortium, and Guma Valley Water Company, out of 19 water catchment areas assessed, all have been invaded by citizens for cultivation and construction purposes. The consequences of such human actions are terrifying. A total of 79% of these water catchment areas have dried up; and 59% have given way to the construction of houses, cultivation, and merciless timber logging. Coastal areas have particularly been prey to flooding, soil erosion, and devastating storms that significantly reduce their agricultural and fishing productivity – hence, partly responsible for deepening the poverty levels in those areas.
The UNDP’s five-year Project titled: ‘Adapting to Climate Change Induced Coastal Risk Management in Sierra Leone’ is one of the innovative contemporary ways to mitigate the dreadful effects of climate changes in coastal areas of the country.
The Climate Change, Environment & Forest Conservation Consortium Sierra Leone (CEFCON-SL), of which AID-SL is a member directly worked with one hundred and eighty (180) women and youths in Lakka, Tombo, Conakry Dee, Hamilton in the Western Area Rural, and Port Loko and Kagboro, Moyamba, and Turtle Island Bonthe Districts communities on this project. Climate change education training was developed and delivered to raise the awareness of citizens about the negative effects of human-facilitated climate changes in the communities.
Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) training was conducted for beneficiaries in the respective communities. The primary objective of the training is to generate and guide the VSLA groups to adapt alternative livelihood opportunities in the coastal plain zones.
The success of microfinance has been widely recognized in the last couple of decades as a testament that the poor are “bankable” and it now accepted that Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) provides simple savings and loans facilities in communities that are without access to financial services. In essence, the Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) intervention provides affordable credit for borrowers and a return on their savings that typically exceed those that any formal institution could provide.
It is a low-cost financial service founded on the principle of fund pooling that plays an important role in meeting the needs of women and men whose principal purpose for accessing finance is to help them manage household cash flow, respond to life-cycle events or invest in small income-generating activities. It is a system that provides people, no matter how remote or poor, with access to small amounts of local capital on flexible terms and to transact such loans frequently at very low risk and negligible cost. The whole scheme is designed to serve the very poor whose income is irregular and high risk to MFIs.
Following the training of groups in basic business management skills and Village Savings and Loan Scheme in the project locations, the project embarked on Coaching and Mentorship of the groups. Mentorship sessions undertaken during this reporting period ensured that the more experienced or more knowledgeable persons in groups help to guide less experienced or less knowledgeable persons to understand and recall basic business profit and loss calculations, market survey and outlets monitoring, VSLA loan given, and collection principles, the importance of social funds and benefits of group cohesion. The couching and mentorship also ensured the following:
- That learning and development partnership between someone with vast experience and someone who wants to learn
- Interaction with project mentors for them to gain proficiency with topics covered during business management and VSLA training
- Experiences gained (both positive and negative) during the course of their VSLA actions.
Groups members were admonished that mentorship processes include the following
- Accompanying: making a commitment in a caring way, which involves taking part in the learning process side-by-side with everyone
- Sowing: mentors are often confronted with the difficulty of preparing the learner before they are ready to change. Sowing is necessary when you know that what you say may be misunderstood or even acceptable to learners at first but will make sense and have value to the mentee when the situation requires it.
- Catalysing: when change reaches a critical level of pressure, learning can escalate. Here the mentor chooses to plunge the learner right into change, provoking a different way of thinking, a change in identity or a re-ordering of values.
- Showing: this is making something understandable, or using one’s own example to demonstrate a skill or activity. Physical demonstrations on profit and loss calculations were done on profit and loss; sitting positions; meeting process and loan and repayment processes.
- Harvesting: here the mentor focuses on “picking the ripe fruit”: it is usually used to create awareness of what was learned by experience and to draw conclusions. The key questions here are: “What have you learned?”, “How useful is it?”
The above steps/process were explored during the mentorship sessions with the full participation of the beneficiaries.
- Modular contents (7 modules) Module 1: Group leadership and elections, Module 2: Social fund, share-purchase/savings, and credit policies, Module 3: Development of association constitution, Module 4: First savings meeting and recordkeeping, Module 5: First loan disbursement and recordkeeping, Module 6: First loan repayment, Module 7: Share-out of funds
- Services offered by the association
- Roles and Responsibilities of each leadership position including expected qualities for each position
- Action plan