SPRING 2015

CHANGING THE
CURRENCY OF
RURAL POVERTY

FEATURES
Changing the Currency
VSLAs by the Numbers

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6

DEPARTMENTS
Director’s Corner
Breaking News
Village Spotlight: Yati, Haiti

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3
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CHICKENS ARE THE REASON WEMA IS
ATTENDING SCHOOL IN MG’ENDE, TANZANIA.

ENVIRONMENTAL SOLUTIONS TO HUMANITARIAN PROBLEMS

DIRECTOR’S CORNER
ENVIRONMENTAL SOLUTIONS TO HUMANITARIAN PROBLEMS

THE SOWER ISSUE #107
Plant With Purpose, a Christian nonprofit
organization, reverses deforestation and
poverty around the world by transforming the lives of the rural poor.

VSLA LEADERS
COUNT SAVINGS
IN HAITI.

At Plant With Purpose
we are working to
bring about environmental restoration,
economic empowerment, and spiritual renewal to rural communities. This issue of
The Sower highlights Village Savings and
Loan Associations (VSLAs), which are our
primary tool for economic empowerment.

inputs. Many times loans are invested in the
agroforestry or agro-ecological techniques
that Plant With Purpose promotes.

There are many things I like about these
cost-effective but powerful groups, not the
least of which is the way they change participants’ self-image and their view of their
own community. They are left with no dependence on outside institutions or outside
capital. As a result, when members achieve
success they have no doubt in their minds
that it is because they have used their own
talents. They are empowered.

In most communities local pastors are bi-vocational and participate in VSLAs, allowing
us to build trust and begin partnerships with
their churches. For those groups that choose
to do so, prayer and devotions are an important part of their group activities, as Ematyel
Charles describes in this issue. Sharing the
love of Jesus is an important value in our
work; however, Plant With Purpose serves
everyone, regardless of faith, and groups
are not required to make devotions a part
of their practice. When they do, Plant With
Purpose staff is excited to support them.

When we highlight one piece of our work
like this, people occasionally ask whether it is indicative of a shift away from tree
planting, agriculture, or Christian outreach.
The answer is, of course, no. We believe
that it is in their synergy that environmental, economic, and spiritual programs are
most effective, so we still work to holistically integrate all three. These savings-and-loan
groups provide an excellent opportunity for
doing just that.
Village Savings and Loan Associations are
made up primarily of small-scale farmers in
locations where the primary economic activity is farming. Agricultural training can be
offered through the VSLA, or offered elsewhere but promoted within the VSLA. Loans
are often used to purchase land or buy farm
2

Groups also represent a source of civic involvement and group members participate
in reforestation efforts together. Tanzania’s
VSLA program hosts a competition among
group members that is the single largest catalyst for tree planting, resulting in more than
1 million trees planted annually.

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR:
Scott Sabin
scott@plantwithpurpose.org
DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR:
Doug Satre
doug@plantwithpurpose.org
MARKETING AND EVENTS:
Becky Rosaler
becky@plantwithpurpose.org

STAY CONNECTED:
4747 Morena Blvd. Suite 100
San Diego, CA 92117
Ph: 800.633.5319
Email: info@plantwithpurpose.org
Web: plantwithpurpose.org
Tw: @PlantWPurpose
Fb: facebook.com/PlantWithPurpose

Village Savings and Loan Associations are
by no means the only thing we are doing,
nor do they represent a change in mission.
Over the last ten years though, they have
represented a shift in strategy, and are providing a platform for everything else that we
do in a community.

EMAIL MEDIA@PLANTWITHPURPOSE.ORG
TO LEARN HOW YOU CAN:

Thank you for being a part of this journey.

Leave a Legacy. Please consider including Plant With Purpose in your wills
and bequests. Contact Doug Satre:
doug@plantwithpurpose.org.  

Scott Sabin
Executive Director

• Share your Plant With Purpose story
• Host an event
• Become a Plant With Purpose advocate

copyright © 2015 Plant With Purpose


70 percent of the world’s poor
depend on the land to survive.
But when trees are cut down,
the land stops producing and
families go hungry.

Join today at plantwithpurpose.org/root-7

Enter Root 7. Your $7 plants 7 trees in 7
countries every month. When you join
Root 7, you’re doing more than putting
trees in the ground. You’re planting healing, opportunity, and hope for a better future. Trees restore the environment, clean
the water, nourish the soil, protect farms
from erosion, and provide a source of in-

come and food for farming families. In
short, trees are life to the rural poor.
We invite you to join the movement.
Root 7 member benefits include a custom steel tumbler and regular updates
on the impact your trees are making
around the world.

BREAKING NEWS
PLANTING HOPE GALA

STUDENT JUSTICE CONFERENCE

Mark your calendars!The 2015 Planting
Hope Gala will take place on Saturday,
October 3. We are excited to announce
that it is being held at a new location:
Omni La Costa Resort and Spa.

Do you know a teenager who is interested
in social justice? Encourage them to attend
the Student Justice Conference this summer. This four-day event designed for high
school juniors and seniors is being held
at Point Loma Nazarene University July
30-August 2. Plant With Purpose is honored
to be a title sponsor. Visit studentjusticeconference.com for more information. We
hope to see you there!

RESTORATION AT WORK
Once a quarter we invite you to join
us at the San Diego office for an update on field programs and how lives
and land are being restored. Set aside
the following Thursday evenings
from 5:30-7:00 pm: March 26, June
18, September 10, and December 10.

to info@plantwithpurpose.org with your
name and current email address under
the subject of eSower. Or simply follow
the steps on the enclosed envelope.

UPCOMING VISION TRIPS
If you haven’t visited one of Plant With Purpose’s programs, we’d love for you to travel with us. Additional trips for 2015 are in
the works. Contact Doug Satre for more information: doug@plantwithpurpose.org.

RECEIVE THE SOWER BY EMAIL

Tanzania: April 16-26, 2015

If you would like to receive The Sower by
email and save a tree, please send an email

Dominican Republic: July 13-18, 2015
Mexico: October 25-30, 2015

WWW.PLANTWITHPURPOSE.ORG

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CHANGING THE CURRENCY
OF RURAL POVERTY
BY BECKY ROSALER, Marketing and Events Coordinator

ARNULFO, ADRIANA, AND THEIR
DAUGHTERS LOOK TOWARD A
BRIGHTER FUTURE.

Money. It’s what makes the world go
‘round. It equips us to buy food and
clothing, pay our water and electric bills,
purchase services, obtain goods, get from
one location to the next, and experience
endless forms of entertainment.
Yet for poor rural families with limited
funds, money represents barriers rather
than opportunities. Lack of income
reduces options, forces painful decisions,
and leads to further despair. Arnulfo and
Adriana Morales, a young couple from
Montefrio, Mexico, understand this all
too well. Confronted by desperate poverty,
Arnulfo had little choice but to leave his
family and immigrate to Los Angeles. He
worked for six years as a day laborer, earning money to send back to his wife and
children–the family he couldn’t afford to
stay with. He explains, “It wasn’t because
I wanted to leave, but because I had to.”
Sadly, their story is not an isolated one.
But there is hope. Plant With Purpose is
addressing crippling poverty in a way that
empowers our partners and offers financial security.
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VSLAS: THE NEW RURAL BANK
Economic empowerment is a key piece
of Plant With Purpose’s three-part holistic approach to development, and Village
Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs)
are the driving force behind it. Not only
do VSLA groups equip impoverished
families to increase their savings, they’ve
launched Plant With Purpose into an era
of unprecedented program growth.
According to the World Bank, 2.5 billion
adults around the world do not have an
account at a financial institution. This
means saving, transferring, or borrowing
money is not an option for one-third of
the world’s population. Without access to
financial services, these individuals will
never be able to borrow the necessary
funds to buy a house, launch a business,
pay for college, or even cover the cost of
emergencies. The ability to get ahead forever remains out of reach.
Even if rural families could earn more
money, they lack safe places to save it.
Accumulated cash is stashed in random
locations around homes, putting families at risk. Often cash-in-hand is spent
quickly as a precaution. Through VSLAs,
Plant With Purpose partnering families

have a safe place to put their hardearned money, while earning interest
on their savings (see sidebar on page 6
to learn how VSLAs work). By providing
an alternative to traditional financial
services, VSLAs are transforming communities.

THE VALUE OF SAVING (GROUPS)
Thousands of partnering families are
discovering the value of saving. A
comparison between the 2011 and 2014
Impact Evaluations (*) shows encouraging results. Across the board, the
number of households actively saving
money increased throughout the six
field programs. The most dramatic results came from the Dominican Republic: three years ago only 29 percent of
participating households were saving;
today, 100 percent of participants surveyed are saving.

*Every three years Plant With Purpose
conducts an extensive Impact
Evaluation to monitor program
impact. Data is collected through
household surveys allowing Plant With
Purpose to compare participating and
nonparticipating households.

Perhaps the most unique outcome of saving comes in the form of relationships.
For widows in Tanzania, their weekly VSLA
meeting provides a consistent source of
community. These groups look out for one
another and provide added layers of accountability. When loans are borrowed to
establish businesses, the 20-plus group
members have a vested interest in the
success of that business.

SHEEP ARE LIKE A SAVINGS ACCOUNT
Arnulfo and Adriana purchased a pair of
sheep with their savings. Other improvements around their farm are evident: hens
and chicks from their coop run through the
garden, which bursts with pumpkins, corn,
and beans. A greenhouse full of tomatoes
stands near the house. The majority of the
family’s food is homegrown. In addition to
fresh vegetables, Arnulfo says, “We now
have eggs and meat.”
Many VSLA members save money with the
goal of purchasing livestock and improving

PLANT
WITH
PURPOSE
VSLA
GROWTH

their farms. The array of traditional farm
animals—chickens, goats, pigs, sheep,
and cows—act like savings accounts for
rural families. By investing their money
in animals, families like the Morales’ are
getting a return. Eggs, milk, meat, and
offspring create a sustainable source of
income. Livestock and other farm additions are the rural poor’s equivalent of
monetary assets. In an emergency situation families can choose to sell their livestock and instantly access funds to cover
unanticipated expenses.

A DIVERSIFIED PORTFOLIO
INCREASES RESILIENCY
As the saying goes, “Don’t put all your
eggs in one basket.” It’s never wise to
keep all your funds in one investment,
which is why financial planners encourage clients to diversify their portfolios.
Plant With Purpose also encourages
diversification on family farms. By increasing crop diversity, partnering
families will be better positioned if a
disaster occurs. For example, a coffee
rust disease recently wiped out coffee
plants on the border of Haiti and the
Dominican Republic. Farmers who depended solely on coffee crops were hit
harder than those with additional crops
to sell. 2014 Impact Evaluations show
that partnering farmers in Haiti harvest
a variety of 35 crops compared to the
26 species that nonparticipants grow.
This 35 percent increase in crop diversity is helping families absorb shocks
and weather storms.
Not only does greater crop diversity in-

crease financial security, it also provides
food security. Arnulfo’s highest household expense used to be food purchases. Through the encouragement of Plant
With Purpose, he and Adriana now grow
or bake most of their food. The Morales
family plans to continue integrating aspects of Plant With Purpose’s program
into their daily life.

AS SAVINGS INCREASE, SO DOES
QUALITY OF LIFE
Arnulfo and Adriana are succeeding in
raising their children together. They recently purchased property and built a
house complete with a cement floor, an
indicator of economic well-being. The
family is thriving as they embrace new
economic opportunities. The exciting
news is that the Moraleses are not alone
in their success; 40 percent of partnering families in Mexico have an emergency cash reserve to cover living expenses for six months—something only
2.5 percent of nonparticipating families
can claim.
Economic empowerment through VSLA
groups is positioning families to improve their livelihood, increase their
well-being, and dream of a different
tomorrow. Arnulfo and Adriana are an
example of this. When asked if he would
have migrated had he been given the
chance to work with Plant With Purpose
years ago, Arnulfo said, “Of course not.”
The evidence is in: economic opportunities exist where families are rooted, and
VSLAs make self-sufficiency possible
for the rural poor.

U.S. Dollars

VSLAs provide the financial support necessary for partnering families to save cash
and access large sums of money. When
Arnulfo returned from California, he and
Adriana joined Montefrio’s VSLA group.
They used funds from the group to construct a fuel-efficient stove. Adriana now
makes the bread the family used to purchase, and recently started a small business baking cakes for special occasions.
Her business saves neighbors the timeconsuming trip to bakeries in Oaxaca City
and according to local staff, the quality of
Adriana’s cakes rival those found in the city.

VSLA GROUPS

MEMBER EQUITY

WWW.PLANTWITHPURPOSE.ORG

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ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT
BY THE NUMBERS
1.6

percentage of rural Burundians who access
loans from a financial institution

100

percentage of partnering farmers in the Dominican Republic who are saving

21

percent increase in rooms per household
of partnering families compared to nonparticipants in Haiti. Rooms per household are
a reliable indicator of economic well-being.

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percentage of rural Mexicans who save their income at a financial institution

14

percentage of rural Tanzanians who have an
account at a financial institution

55

percentage of partnering families in Thailand
who own pigs, a monetary asset

*Global Findex; 2014 Plant With Purpose Impact Evaluation

HOW VSLAS WORK

Plant With Purpose’s VSLA groups typically consist of 20-30 members
from the same community. The members draft their own bylaws and
elect leaders. These leaders receive substantial training over several
months before the VSLA investment cycle is initiated, as well as additional training and follow-up throughout the year. Once the savings
cycle begins, each group member can purchase shares by depositing
money. The group meets weekly and every member must invest at
least one share at each meeting. Share size is agreed upon together
(usually the equivalent of $1 USD).
The savings box is secured with three locks, and three different group
members hold the keys. All three key holders must be present to start
the meeting. Accountability is vital to the success of VSLAs and continued transparency during the meeting and savings cycle establishes
trust between neighbors. Group leaders count the accumulated savings at the start of each meeting. Members are called forward one at
a time to purchase shares, which are tracked in individual bankbooks.
The group discusses applications for loans and collects interest from
past loans. A group secretary keeps detailed records of each transaction.
At the end of a twelve-month savings cycle, each member’s shares—
plus any accrued interest or gains on capital from fines and fundraising—are distributed. Groups have accumulated as much as $5,000 in
capital at the end of the cycle.

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VILLAGE SPOTLIGHT:
YATI, HAITI

BY ANNELISE JOLLEY, Outreach Coordinator

PARTNERING FARMERS DIG A SOIL
CONSERVATION BARRIER TO ANCHOR
TOPSOIL ON THEIR HILLSIDE FARM.

The small community of Yati lies on the

discord give what they can to support fel-

I am a group member,” Ematyel says.

border of Haiti and the Dominican Re-

low community members.

“We pray before any activity in the group
and every two weeks we hold a Bible re-

public. Deep-seated prejudices create

flection.”

tension between the two cultures, and

Ematyel Charles and his wife are mem-

border communities feel the brunt of

bers of Yati’s Village Savings and Loan As-

this friction. Millions of Haitians cross

sociation (VSLA), which they credit for turn-

Through agricultural trainings, Ematyel

this boundary line illegally to seek op-

ing their lives around. Over the past few

learned to protect and restore his small

portunity in the more prosperous Do-

years they’ve increased their savings and

plot. Today, low stone walls support his

minican Republic, even while rural com-

borrowed loans for important life steps.

farmland, preventing valuable soil from

munities on both sides barely eke out a

“Thanks to our VSLA group, my wife started

sliding away. Neighbors who’ve noticed

living from their farms.

a business,” Ematyel says. “We can afford to

the changes in Ematyel’s crop production

pay school fees for my children without dif-

and income ask him to share his knowl-

Yet among the steep hillside farms of

ficulty.” Through savings groups, Plant With

edge. Thanks to new skills and confi-

Yati, transformation is taking root. Farm-

Purpose gives women dignity and a voice

dence in his God-given abilities, Ematyel

ers who used to spend their minimal in-

in the household as they contribute to their

says proudly, “I really know I will make

come on gambling or drinking now de-

families’ income.

success in my life.”

box each week. Soil that once slid away

Yati’s VSLA group also serves as a platform

For just $1 a day you can partner with

with every rainfall now anchors trees

for Plant With Purpose to teach sustainable

a community like Yati to help meet vital

and crops, producing nutritious food for

farming techniques and share the love of

needs. Fill out the enclosed envelope or visit

families. Neighbors that once lived in

God. “My heart is always refreshed because

plantwithpurpose.org/sponsor-a-village.

posit that money carefully into a savings

WWW.PLANTWITHPURPOSE.ORG

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Plant With Purpose
4747 Morena Blvd. Suite 100
San Diego, CA 92117
Ph: 800.633.5319
Email: info@plantwithpurpose.org

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RURAL FAMILIES EXPERIENCE ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT