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Village Community Banks (VICOBA): Training of Facilitators, Assessment of Existing Groups and Recommendations on Method Development

Farmers’ ability to learn and work together is a critical factor for improved production, marketing and income opportunities. Low level of savings, credit availability, trust and economic cooperation among farmers are problems contributing to low rural incomes. District Councils can work to improve this situation by providing support to activities that strengthen farmer cooperation. This empowers farmers and farmer groups to take more responsibility for their own development. Activities that promote farmers’ confidence and builds trust among members assist farmers to be more active players in their own development. One model aiming at this is the Village Community Banks (VICOBA). VICOBA also provides a model for community management of water and other communal resources. In addition, it provides a model for short-term finance to household and individual business. The strengthened capacity among individuals and groups gives VICOBA members a better position to negotiate and accessing credits from suppliers and commercial banks.

The Village Community Bank (VICOBA) model builds upon a small group of about 25 members that meets weekly and learns together for a one-year cycle. During the first four months a facilitator guides the group through a number of topics ranging from savings and credit to group responsibilities and business planning. The facilitator then reduces his/her input to fortnightly or monthly visits. After one year the assistance from the facilitator and District is formally withdrawn, all transactions are cleared and the group is free to make its own decision on how to proceed.

The VICOBA model for training of groups in savings, credit and business identification has been introduced to the geographically and ethnically diverse districts of Babati, Kiteto, Simanjiro and Singida in northern and central Tanzania, through the Land Management Programme (LAMP). In Simanjiro District the Village Community Banks have been successfully implemented since mid 2003. Kiteto, Babati and Singida District Council all started a number of groups with assistance from facilitators trained in Babati September 2004.

A number of training of trainers has been conducted, the first in Simanjiro in 2003, and then two for all Districts with one training in 2004 and another in 2005.

The Objective of the training assignments has been to train facilitators in the VICOBA methodology. As it is very important to compare and see successes and problems in different groups and learn from experiences, an assignment to follow up the development of VICOBA in all the four Districts was carried out. The intention was to take the VICOBA groups and concept a step further, where the groups can be linked to community management and household and group business. The Districts’ VICOBA staff needed better knowledge of how their operations could be improved, how they were performing and how to phase out groups when they reach maturity. It was important for District Council staff to get a good general knowledge about the objectives and operations of VICOBA and the VICOBA facilitators needed to be better prepared and trained for the implementation of VICOBA, knowledge and performance gaps were addressed during the consultancy.

The Objectives of the follow up and training assignment were:

  • To assess and document the implementation of VICOBA in Babati, Kiteto, Simanjiro and Singida Districts and make recommendations on how the Districts can improve and learn from each other
  • Provide a model for efficient VICOBA implementation and make a ranking on progress in the Districts
  • Document practices used including phasing out strategies for “mature” groups
  • To assist the Districts in preparation and implementation of information meetings to the District Council staff
  • To organise a follow up training for existing VICOBA trainers
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