The ECOFISH project has established at least one community savings group (CSG) with 30-35 women in each fishing village of intervention comprising 148 community savings groups involving 4,125 women with a total savings of USD 159,210. This novel approach has led to women empowerment for providing collateral free soft loan among themselves. So far, 1,770 women have received the loans from this fund, each in two to three times, and reinvested in different small businesses
The Enhanced Coastal Fisheries (ECOFISH) project helped in improving the livelihoods of coastal fishing households by providing training and input supports for diversified and resilient alternative income generating activities. The project ensured women participation in the co-management committees with a representation of up to 30% of stakeholders so that their voice is heard and considered in decision-making. One unique and novel approach was to improve access of fishers’ women to resources and technologies, as a pathway for women empowerment. Community savings group consisting of 30-35 women were formed following standard printed constitutions prescribing the rules and that govern their management. The project introduced at least one fishers’ women community savings group in each fishing village. A total of 148 community savings groups involving 4,125 women have been established over last four years. Members were given 6-months long literacy training through Business Literacy Schools and encouraged to save only Tk. 100 per month and deposit the savings in banks. As a result, the total savings reached USD 159,210, and this is projected to increase many folds in the long run. The community savings groups were supported with a matching grant when their savings reached Tk. 25,000 (ECOFISH Annual Report, 2019)
Now, the community savings groups provide collateral-free soft loans to their members to invest in small business. So far, 1,770 women have received collateral-free soft loans and reinvested in different businesses such as tailoring, goat rearing, cow rearing, commercial gardening, grocery, and poultry rearing. Each loan recipient re-pays her loans in 10 installments over a period of 10 months excluding the two-months fishing ban period in March-April, along with a nominal 5% service charge. The exclusion of the fishing-ban period from the loan repayment timeline is meant to avail the fisher households with an alternative and unconstraint source of cash to sustain their livelihoods and enhance compliance of the community in hilsa shad fish and biodiversity conservation.
Fisher women’s economic empowerment, skill development through trainings and technological supports not only brought a positive impact in their households or fishing communities, but also having a spillover effects in non-fishing neighboring communities as well. The impact study revealed that the household savings of the community savings group members increased significantly (p<0.01) compared to control fishing household. The community savings group approach has also led to the increased engagement and influence of fishers women in fisheries governance that eventually led to the increased compliance of the community in hilsa shad fish and biodiversity conservation. In addition, women access to finance and increased ability to support their family in need has ameliorated domestic gender relations including reduced violence on women.
Stage of Maturity: Stage 2
Contributions in sphere of influence:
This work was undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Fish Agri-Food Systems (FISH) led by WorldFish. The program is supported by contributors to the CGIAR Trust Fund. Funding support for this work was provided by the United States Agency for International Development - USAID under the Enhanced coastal fisheries in Bangladesh (ECOFISH) project.