Author: Caseley, J.
In December 1997, UNICEF and the Committee for Ethnic Minorities in Mountainous Areas (CEMMA) established the Linking Bank Credit Model (LBCM), in partnership with the Vietnam Bank for the Poor (YBP) and the Lai Chau Women's Union (\VU), in 9 communes and 4 districts in Lai Chau province. After two and a half years of operation an evaluation of the LBCM is being undertaken to learn about the impact on the lives of women, their children and families in the 8 of the 9 pilot communes.
Purpose / Objective
The aim of the Linking Bank Credit Model (LBCM) is to combine the comparative advantages of the Vietnam Bank for the Poor (VBP)--strong capacities in banking and rural credit management--and the Women's Union (WU)--strong grass-roots networks at village levels--to enable ethnic minority women to increase household food security and income through agricultural production loans from the VBP.
Objectives of the evaluation:
- To assess the impact of savings and credit activities on the lives of village Women's Savings and Credit Group (WSCG) members
- To assess the appropriateness and effectiveness of the LBCM and to make recommendations to UNICEF, the VBP and Committee for Ethnic Minorities in Mountainous Areas addressing appropriate strategies for credit provision in mountainous, poor ethnic minority communities
The evaluation was undertaken in 8 communes and 4 districts (Dien Bien Dong, Muong Te, Tua Chua and Tuan Giao) in Lai Chau province. Four structured questionnaires were collected from 166 WSCG members, 32 WSCG leaders, 24 non-WSCG members and 16 commune leaders. In four of the eight communes, semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with 26 WSCG members, 4 family members, 8 WSCG leaders, 8 non-WSCG members, 4 commune level WU leaders, 8 district VBP and WU staff responsible for LBCM management and 4 provincial staff from the Resettlement Office. Three focus groups were held with groups of 4-6 WSCG members.
Key Findings and Conclusions
Field research found that women group members defined a successful loan as money that had been borrowed, invested in animal husbandry (for the majority of cases), and repaid without having less livestock than when the loan was taken (i.e. without losing money). Based on this definition, 94% of the women interviewed stated their loan had been successful. The majority of women have been able to substantially increase their animal production assets (head of livestock) through a combination of loans from the VBP and increased knowledge on animal husbandry and animal health practices. In-depth interviews found that WSCG members experienced less food shortages than in the past and that they now had higher levels of food consumption. 52% of non-group members interviewed suffered from annual food shortages compared with 20% for WSCG members.
91% of group members had learned and practised new information on women's and children's health. 72% of women interviewed knew when to start breastfeeding a child and 76% knew when to start providing complementary food in addition to breast milk. 54% of women knew how many examinations at the commune health centre a pregnant woman should have during her pregnancy. 88% knew that they needed to feed sick children more and 42% knew the correct amount of water to mix with a bag of Oresol. 85% of women knew why it was important to immunize their child.
The most common method of learning new knowledge on agricultural production and animal health was through knowledge sharing at monthly WSCG meetings. Prior to joining WSCG, 66% of the women surveyed had no knowledge or experience in: taking loans from the VBP; paying interest; making regular monthly savings; repaying loans at the end of an agreed loan period. It is clear from the quantitative and qualitative data that taking loans from the VBP has been a very positive empowering experience for the majority of WSCG members. The impact of LBCM on women's empowerment has been dramatic in all surveyed communes. WSCGs have provided opportunities for village women to overcome their social and cultural isolation, and take a more active and visible role in their communities.
89% of the group members (729 out of 820 women) in the 8 research communes repaid their first loan from the VBP on time. 91% (110 out of 121 women) repaid their 3rd loan on time and 309 women in 2 communes received a third loan from the VBP. To date, 13 households have repaid their loans before they were due.
Prior to the implementation of the LBCM, none of the district WU staff in the four surveyed districts had any knowledge or experience in credit and savings. 30 months later, these women are managing and supporting 1,614 women in 15 communes. In partnership with district VBP staff who, prior to being involved in the LBCM, had very little direct contact with ethnic minority women borrowers, loans totalling VND 2,182,000,000 (US$ 156,000) have been dispersed.
One of the most important findings of this evaluation is how cost-effective and compatible the LBCM is with the current mandates of the VBP and WU. The fact that the LBCM can be easily integrated within the current operations and existing staffing structures of both organisations makes the model very desirable for government replication.
Documentation of the LBCM in its current form so that the model can be successfully replicated in other provinces. This would involve writing detailed LBCM Management Guidelines that cover every aspect of LBCM implementation, from the initial foundation training courses for VBP and WU staff to commune selection, WSCG formation, WSCG activities, M&E and many other aspects of LBCM operation. As it is likely that the current funding for the LBCM will end this year, there is an urgent need to document and formally transfer the LBCM to the government of Vietnam.
To date, the majority of WSCG members have not been able to access additional loans under the LBCM due to lack of clear guidelines on the 2nd loan size and duration. A range of VBP loan products offered under the LBCM should be designed. Additionally, bookkeeping procedures for WSCG leaders and accountants need to be simplified.
More materials on family health, agricultural production and animal health are needed. It is remarkable what has already been accomplished with a scant amount of materials.
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Committee for Ethnic Minorities in Mountainous Areas, Vietnam Bank for the Poor, and Lai Chau Women?s Union