Woman at a table with eggs doing paperwork.

Savings and Loans

Woman at a table with eggs doing paperwork.

We believe in change that lasts. And that comes from farmers having control over their resources and the information and expertise to make decisions themselves.

We invest alongside farmers and other partners, building sustainable businesses and inclusive markets that enable farmers to earn a living income.

Financing from the ground up

Working capital is vital to any business – especially farming, where the costs of land, livestock and farm equipment can be significant.

Each self-help group sets up a central fund from which members can borrow money to grow their businesses.

Every time their group meets, members deposit an agreed upon amount with the group’s treasurer. As the savings build, members borrow money from the fund, using it to scale up their business, start a new venture, or cover the cost of an emergency.

The groups establish their own governance structures. Many are led by women and
most have a majority women membership. The groups receive financial training from our local
teams and decide for themselves how and where to invest their money.

Total in Savings $ 19,898,669

The approach

Self help groups continue investing and lending in a continuous cycle, forming larger cooperatives and eventually apex organizations, shifting from informal to formal over time.

We invest alongside entrepreneurial community members

We have more than 20 years of experience supporting savings and lending groups in 19 countries. Groups are usually women-led, and the majority of membership is comprised of women. They then lend that money to one another to help members meet immediate and long-term needs. While we provide trainings, the groups themselves are self-led, with members setting goals together as they hold each other accountable and build trust amongst themselves.

Diagram showing a foundation for scale, moving from self-help groups to cooperatives to apex organizations


How it works

We work with communities to grow and scale their businesses and progress their market maturity.

Progression of group and market maturity

 A diagram showing how communities can move from emerging market to market read to market active


Where we work

Heifer currently is involved in projects in 20 countries all over the world.

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100% of women
$2,898,429 in savings
1,492 total groups
56,324 total members

We consult with local government to identify strategic locations, then forms groups, targeting more vulnerable community members. All community members join a group. Collective work can make up as much as half of a group’s savings. Once groups have gone through the full suite of training, we assist them in forming cooperatives.


100% of women
$400,946 in savings
210 total groups
5,100 total members

In Bangladesh, our project team works with local leaders and a community facilitator to form new groups, 100 percent comprised of women members. Group members span the demographics of a community, and VBHCD reinforces their trust and caring for one another. Once groups form cooperatives, they track their financials through Cooperative 360 for access to real-time information.


72% of women
$570,579 in savings
484 total groups
12,100 total members

We work with the community to identify project participants, and then facilitates the creation of groups. The projects focus on needy communities including most vulnerable and less vulnerable families who are willing to join the project and meet participation conditions as well. The group savings and lending structure provides accessible capital for members to invest in IGAs, without requiring outside loans at potentially higher interest rates.


85% of women
$4,258,160 in savings
456 total groups
29,248 total households

In Cambodia, we primarily leverage and provide training to existing groups. The groups do not participate in fundraising, including only savings in the group fund. Movement into cooperatives is voluntary, occurring through the purchase of shares at either the individual or group level.


100% of women
$2,317,179 in savings
2,448 total groups
40,040 total members

In India, we primarily leverage and provide training to existing groups. Most groups start saving within a month of forming. We also help groups form Project Management Committees to represent themselves as they form and register a a producer company with the government. Revolving fund at the producer company level to grow and support more families.


90% of women
$55,611 in savings
18 total groups
18,000 total members

We work with associations in Haiti, rather than the smaller groups, providing training to the associations leadership. In turn, these leaders are responsible for training their members. After training and saving together, participant groups show much greater interest in participating in and taking ownership of community development activities.


65% of women
$184,340 in savings
134 total groups
3,050 total members

In Ghana, we work with existing groups and individuals not yet organized into groups who are in the same social capital development status and who have common interests, even though they might be engaged in different income generating activities. Once there is money in the fund, members can take out loans to cover essential needs or, once essential needs are covered, to invest in income generating activities.


63% of women
$1,047,649 in savings
1,416 total groups
26,530 total members

In Kenya, we work with groups that the project helps form, as well as previously existing groups. Some groups use mobile money (e.g. MPESA) to transfer funds to members. This reduces the use of cash, making the group fund more secure. It also assists in transparency, as there is an electronic record of transactions within the group.


82% of women
$2,362,400 in savings
3,564 total groups
60,480 total members

Savings groups in Malawi typically have a separate social fund for emergencies or social needs, and groups put stipulations on the amount given per incidence and type of need. Malawi also presents a unique opportunity to compare models. The EPOG project will pilot savings groups which pay out dividends only, and reinvest savings. The challenge will be how this works within the regulatory environment.


85% of women
$196,400 in savings
20 total groups
270 total members

In Mexico, we primarily leverage and provide training to existing groups who are more established as market systems actors. Training is tailored based on individual groups' needs. To jump-start their savings, we also provide seed capital to the groups. There is great flexibility in annual payout vs. re-capitalization of interest, and groups make the decision on how to operate.


56% of women
$84,300 in savings
192 total groups
5,602 total members

In Rwanda, we visit nearby microfinance institutions (MFIs) to identify places where groups would be able to open a savings account. This provides a secure place for groups to store their savings when it is not being lent out. For project farmers to access the market and be able to sign the contracts with buyers, we encourage members from different groups to form cooperatives, for market accessibility and to allow them sign contracts with buyers in future.


70% of women
$300,089 in savings
444 total groups
5,992 total members

In communities where groups exist, we screen them for functionality and retained for assistance. When there are not yet groups, we facilitate their formation. Groups are made up of households within the same socio-economic brackets. As the members’ economic power increases, group members may mutually agree to increase the amount of their weekly savings.


48% of women
$1,938,528 in savings
4,154 total groups
88,650 total members

We help mobilize farmers to form self-help groups. For farmers to be able to secure a reliable market, they must increase production and ensure the products are of high quality. Some investments require more money than a typical savings group can provide, therefore Heifer Tanzania sometimes links farmers with micro-finance institutions or SACCOS to access larger loans.


77% of women
$329,929 in savings
2,648 total groups
50,410 total members

We primarily leverage and provide training to existing groups. The groups do not participate in fundraising, including only savings in the group fund. Groups agree on minimum and maximum savings amounts. A key tenant of all groups is that, regardless of the amount a member has saved, he or she has an equal voice in the use of funds.