>>Authored by Barakah Ibisomi, Microcredit Summit Campaign Program Intern
Landlocked Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries in the world with 44.6 percent of its population living on $1.25 or less per day. A recent CGAP publication draws on “resilience diaries” of 46 women in rural households in the northeastern zones of the country to determine how different financial services contribute to and affect household resilience.
Twenty-five women are members of village banks with the Reseau des Caisses Populaires du Burkina Faso (RCPB) while 21 are members of savings groups with the Office de Développement des Eglises Evangéliques (ODE). The seven-month project was conducted by Freedom from Hunger.
The diaries were used to understand the following:
- The strategies poor households employ to manage economic, environmental and health shocks that disrupt their financial lives.
- The roles formal, non formal and informal financial products play in improving household resiliency and building assets.
Burkinabé households are highly influenced by their country’s seasonal and agricultural calendar as it determines how they make a living — specifically, how land is put to use, the degree to which households depend on livestock, and other non-agricultural sources of income. The time just before harvest in September is financially difficult, with income and savings at a low point and borrowing and expenses at a high point. There is a need for additional or specialized financial services to help households better manage the season.
The most common coping strategies used to respond to shocks are first using savings at home, then reducing food consumption, selling grain, selling small livestock, purchasing on credit and lastly, borrowing from a savings group. Borrowing from financial institutions, family and friends is less preferred. As resources become available to them, the women re-prioritize the way they manage any particular shock. For example, after harvest, more sell grain and fewer reduce food consumption, make purchases on credit or borrow from friends and family.
Very few households in Burkina Faso have access to formal financial services so the women’s use of formal financial products is very limited and their demand for it is widely unmet. When asked whether they had all the financial products and services they need, only 17 percent felt they had. There is a strong demand for additional financial products and services, with an emphasis on microcredit, savings products and agricultural-related grants. However, when they do have access, they use formal services to cover costs incurred from shocks. The most common formal products or services used are RCPB loans and remittance services.
The more commonly used non formal services are savings groups which are used to save money for purchasing livestock, paying health expenses, school fees and for food and income generating activity (IGA) expenses. For informal services, the women borrow from friends and family, make purchases on credit from local merchants and, as mentioned earlier, receive remittances often by hand-to-hand transporters. The women reported using non formal and informal financial services significantly more than formal financial services.
All these services help improve cash flow but it is difficult to determine the extent to which they are helpful in building resiliency.
Other key findings from the studied households:
- The most common shocks encountered by those studied were illness and injury, loss of livestock, death of family members and poor harvest, all These shocks affected both income-generation as well as food supplies. Other semi-regular shocks included droughts and famine, political crisis, and health threats.
- Women play a significant role in the household economy, but are limited by gender norms, time, and resources to pursue more profitable IGAs. The most common IGAs for the participants were the growth and sale of cash crops and petty commerce.
- Food insecurity dominates all of the households’ lives.
The concept of resilience is in itself a work-in-progress because of its novelty and multi dimensionality. The RM-TWG defines resilience as “the capacity that ensures adverse stressors and shocks do not have long-lasting adverse development consequences.”
Based on this definition of resilience, it is difficult to consider many of these households resilient because when shocks occur, they use negative coping mechanisms that increase food insecurity, such as reducing daily food consumption and selling grain stocks and livestock meant to be. These strategies solve an immediate problem but can have long-term, long-lasting adverse development consequences.
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