Three years ago Alie Bangura, known locally as Pa Alie, was a subsistence farmer and a driver on the side. His fields were unproductive, his family undernourished, and his children uneducated. To make matters worse, when Pa Alie’s vehicle broke down, he could not afford to repair it and therefore lost his job as a driver. Today, however, Pa Alie is a business owner and respected chairman of his SILC (savings and internal loan club)group as part of FRB's Sierra Leone-Koinadugu program.
His five children all go to school and he can fully support his family. Pa Alie has completed three cycles of SILC and is now in his fourth cycle. By taking out loans from his savings group, he was able to open a new general merchandise shop in his village of Mange and continually builds his stock through new loans. At Alie’s store you can find items such as rice, sugar,flour, biscuits, medicines, batteries, toothpaste, and cigarettes.
While the shop provides a new source of income for Pa Alie, he is also enjoying greater productivity on his farm. In the past, he could not keep up with the required work of his land and his harvest suffered. Now he is able to hire laborers and can “work timely,”leading to a stronger harvest.
His most important success, he says, is his ability to pay his children’s school fees. It pained him in the past when he could not afford to send his children to school. But today he proudly says, “The box business completely wiped out that problem.” He also reports that since SILC has been established in Mange, they have seen more and more village members go further in their education, some even going to university.
Perhaps the greatest aspect of Pa Alie’s success is the fact that he is not alone. Many others who are in SILC in Mange are experiencing similar successes. When village members see Pa Alie and his fellow SILC group members freeing themselves from states of subsistence, theybegin begging to join a savings and loan group.
Today there are six groups in Mange, each with about thirty members. There is no doubt that SILC has become a trusted and proven methodology in Mange and the surrounding area. Pa Alie and others plead that CRS would continue their good work by spreading the SILC methodology, remarking that, “Had it not been for SILC, none of this would be possible.”
By Dallas Nord, FRB Volunteer