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A visit to Sag’s community bank Avantages pour la communauté

A visit to Sag’s community bank

par Jon Khoo  | 

I recently had the opportunity to join a community bank meeting in Sag, in the Danajon Bank, Philippines.

Discarded fishing nets are sold through Net-Works providing a supplemental income for fishermen and their families. Once the nets are collected, they are sold into the Net-Works supply chain via a local loan clubs (locally known as COMSCAs) or an existing microfinance group.

As I arrived on the island of Sag, with our ZSL partners, the last few bags of nets were being weighed and the totals checked ahead of the weekly meeting.  Bag after bag was placed on a hook, weighed and recorded. As the bags headed back to our boat, I had a moment of realisation that waste was becoming wealth for this community.

COMSCAs are small local groups of 15-25 people that meet weekly over a 50 week cycle – making savings both convenient and regular. They provide an ideal financial infrastructure for fishing villages, where income can be somewhat variable.

For Amado Blanco, from ZSL-Philippines, the beauty of COMSCAs is that they are “are flexible and affordable … you can choose how much to invest. If you’ve not been very lucky in your last fishing trip, you might scale back one share, or increase your share when things are good. It fits with the routine of a fishing village… for fishing is very opportunistic.”

To save in our COMSCA community bank arrangements, you pay for and add shares, which have a minimum price decided by the community. Sag, the community I was visiting, had decided to increase the price for its shares… meaning that members were committing to save even more over the course of a year.

We also received good news from the village of Gaus, in the Danajon Bank, that they’d doubled the price of shares in their community bank for their second year in a row.

It was great to hear that villages were starting to increase the price for their shares… it really shows faith in the system. I love the fact that this decision was taken by the group. Seeing the self-organisation of these COMSCAs in action was really inspiring.  It was wonderful to see how Net-Works was working and to know that we’d succeeded in providing access to local savings for local people.

As our boat left the jetty, as we headed back to the ZSL-Philippines staff house with the nets, I was left thinking this was one village, on one island in one country. This was really just the beginning…

For more perspectives on COMSCAs check out our recent blog post – Local savings for local people

Jon Khoo is a Co-innovation Partner at Interface Inc.

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