Ba'ana Fanna Mala, a beneficiary of the VSLA training through the Integrated Community Recovery and Resilience Programme in Borno State.

 

Singing along to music on the radio, Fanna dished out meals to her customers in her food stand. With tremendous growth in the business due to increasing customers, Fanna is sure of a better life and greater opportunities for herself and her ten children. Life was not as prosperous earlier for Fanna, but with a recent turnaround of her fortune thanks to the UNDP Integrated Community Recovery and Resilience project funded by European Union, she is able to behind to build back better. 

Ba’ana Fanna Mala, a 37-year-old widow from Dalori community in Konduga Local Government Area of Borno State, lost her husband to the conflict that struck the Northeast part of Nigeria since 2009. As a result of that loss, she now has the responsibility of solely taking care of her ten children. In hopes of strengthening her family’s livelihood, she thought it fit to start a business in cooking and selling food to labourers on the construction sites in Dalori. In the beginning, it was difficult for Fanna to fend for herself and care for her children because the business was very small scale and the revenues could not in any way cater to the growing needs of her large family. This made her feel sad as her future seemed uncertain.

“Losing my husband to the crisis was a terrible experience,” Fanna recollected. “My husband was a farmer and trader before his untimely passing. He was such a lively and hard-working man, who had no issues protecting myself and our children. But with his death, life became very difficult for me; with the little savings I had, I started a small-scale cooking business so that I can at least provide for my children.”

 

Fanna has being able to expand her cooking business through the loan and savings from the village saving loans association.

 

Now in its eleventh year, the crisis that struck the North-eastern Nigeria remains one of the most severe crises in the world with millions of civilians subjected to extreme hardship. The conflict resulted in massive destruction of basic infrastructure, health and educational facilities, commercial buildings, and agricultural assets severely impacting the livelihoods of families. While some of the affected persons are building back with new sources of livelihoods, a large number are still dependent on humanitarian aid.

The year 2018, was the most significant for Fanna, following the Integrated Community Recovery and Resilience project, implemented by the UNDP in collaboration with the Borno State Government, with funding from the European Union. The overall objective of this project is to contribute to rebuilding the resilience of conflict-affected people and communities in Borno State in a sustainable and environment-friendly way. This programme responds to the immediate need to stabilize communities across Borno State and to help hasten socio-economic integration of conflict affected communities.

A component of the project that significantly changed Fanna’s life was her improved access to finance through Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA). UNDP has supported VSLAs as a model of economic empowerment for women, youth and the vulnerable, particularly in Northeast Nigeria, an area that has suffered years of insurgency. VSLAs provide a simple and accountable system for savings and loans for communities who do not have ready access to formal financial services such as banks or microfinance institutions. With this, many rural communities can develop and imbibe a culture of saving which invariably grants them to gain access to credit lines that can then be used for investments and subsequently improve their livelihoods. With VSLA, the community members are also encouraged to contribute a token called social fund for their community and personal financial services.

Ali Tela, Beneficiary of the VSLA training rolled out by UNDP

 

Since joining the VSLA in her community, Fanna has been able to consistently save money, which has in turn enabled her to borrow at low interest rates to help expand her food vendor business. The main aim of VSLA is to jumpstart a process of economic recovery of women, men, and youths through cash grants, which will enable them to start up or expand their various business and also a means to invest in the wellbeing and future of their households. Without the VSLA fund, Fanna would have had to rely heavily on humanitarian support even though she has skills to provide for herself and her kids. Her daily business now offers her the opportunity to feed, clothe and take care of her family.

“I am utterly grateful to UNDP and the EU for the opportunity enabled me to do what I have a passion for,” Fanna continued, stirring her pot of soup with a smile on her face. “I have been doing this business for a very long time before it collapsed but this fund has helped to reactivate my means of livelihood”.

With the loan from VSLA, about 315 businesses were established, out of which 179 were female owners, in the communities supported under the project including Dalori. The areas of businesses include livestock, trading, hair dressing and tailoring.

Ali Tela, a 55-year-old man from Dalori community in Borno State, is also a beneficiary of the VSLA loans. Married with 17 children, Ali was a victim of the insurgent attacks which cost him his means of livelihood.

Ali has revived his business, and even expanded it. With this he can provide for needs of his family and help others in his community.

 

“I was a trader prior to the insurgent’s attack,” Ali noted. “With the crisis, I lost my shop and my business completely collapsed. I found it hard to provide for my family and I could not face them because I was ashamed that I could no longer provide for them and carter to their needs” said Ali.

“The VSLA came at a crucial time when people in my community needed it the most,” Ali continued as he packaged some goods a customer bought from him. “We keyed into the initiative and now we are reaping the benefits. I have revived my business, even expanded it and I now can travel to Maiduguri town up to 4 times a week to buy supplies and restock my shop. In turn, this has also helped me to take better care of my family.”

From Ali’s training in Jos, to receiving support from the VSLA, he is deeply grateful. The VSLA has been a source of economic power, unity, and peaceful coexistence in Dalori community.

Using an integrated approach for immediate community stabilization and early recovery in North East Nigeria, UNDP with funds from EU, are stabilizing local communities devastated by the insurgency. With the provision of support in four inter-related areas: livelihoods, security, basic services, and emerging local governance, it is projected that they will build forward better.

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