MARS and CARE: supporting women empowerment

By Leah Netabai

Building on the success of MARS and CARE’s joint Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) initiative, MARS invests a further US$10mn. 

Established in 1991, the Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) initiative has been driving economic empowerment across the world for more than 25 years.

What does MARS and CARE’s joint model mean for cocoa-growing communities in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana?

MARS and CARE’s joint model aims to build women’s social and economic empowerment in cocoa-growing communities in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. Currently the model has 12,000 members that it has been supporting throughout 2019, however MARS and CARE have set targets to reach an additional 50,000 by 2025.

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The VSLA will help households accumulate savings, provide loans and provide access to local finance institutions. 

What is the VSLA Model?

The model starts off by establishing VSLA groups of 15-25 members, who act as entry points in the community to support interventions in:

  • Financial inclusion

  • Connection to formal finance

  • Entrepreneurships

  • Income growth and diversification

  • Gender equality

  • Early childhood development

  • Child protection

“The well-being of women in cocoa-growing communities in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana is a critical link to family food security and nutrition, education, health and child protection, and drives the long-term prospects for a future of educated cocoa farmers,” said John Ament, Global Vice President – Cocoa, Mars Wrigley. “Based on CARE’s implementation of this approach for Mars since 2015, our ambition is that each element of the VSLA model will not only contribute to closing the gap to a living income for cocoa-growing households, but will also increase resilience and women’s confidence, and strengthen local governance and child protection.”

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