Village Savings and Loans Model

VSL group members saving and lending at their weekly meeting
VSL group members saving and lending at their weekly meeting



CARE believes that empowering women economically can be a powerful driver towards greater equality and opportunity in other spheres of life. CARE’s flagship Village Savings and Loan (VSL) methodology, developed by the organization here in Africa more than twenty years ago, is a simple, low-cost approach which has already provided hundreds of thousands of Rwandan women with the opportunity to harness their skills and energy to businesses and enterprises and transform their lives and those of their families.


A CARE VSL group consists of 25-30 people from the poorest categories of the community, who come together voluntarily to save small amounts of money – often as little as one or two hundred Rwandan Francs – every week in a structured meeting.

As the savings fund grows, the group begins to make small loans to its members, whose business ideas are appraised by the group during meetings, and who repay their loans, with interest, back into the savings fund. CARE’s groups include on average 70% women.

At the end of the annual cycle, the total fund is shared between the members, who typically use this windfall to build up their household assets, buying livestock or bicycles, or improving their houses.


Even though these groups comprise the poorest members of the community, their thriftiness and industry, allied to the solidarity and support they gain from the group, mean that share-outs often exceed one million Rwandan Francs.


As the financial needs and capabilities of the group and its members outgrow what VSL alone can provide, CARE helps to link them responsibly with formal financial institutions, often Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs), so that they can continue to grow their savings and their businesses.


Around 240,000 Rwandans are currently members of VSL groups that CARE and its partners have helped to establish, of which 70% are women, and who have collectively mobilized over 20 million US dollars in cumulative savings to invest in their families and communities.


Per head of population, Rwanda already leads the way in uptake rate for this simple yet effective approach in Africa, but there is no room for complacency. Latest figures show that around one million Rwandans remain completely excluded from any type of financial service, mostly poor women in remote rural areas. For these women, access to a VSL group offers a vital stepping stone to economic empowerment, and thence to the gender equality and opportunity that Rwanda is working so hard to achieve.


For more information on the Village Savings and Loans model, please look at the following documents, available from the Resources section of this website:

  • Empowering Rwandan Communities One Step at a Time; How Voluntary Savings and Loans Build Access to Financial and Social Services (CARE Rwanda, 2010)
  • SAFI Technical Briefs (CARE Rwanda)
  • Mind the Gap; Exploring the Gender Dynamics of CARE Rwanda’s Village Savings and Loans (VSL) Programming (CARE Rwanda, 2012)
  • Connecting the World's Poorest People to the Global Economy; New models for linking informal savings groups to formal financial services (CARE International, 2013)


Model Info

  • Date first used: 1991 July

  • Partners using model:

    VSL has been adopted by many Rwandan NGOs, including:

    • AEE
    • ARCTF
    • ADTS
    • APIB
    • The Anglican Church of Rwanda
  • Districts using model:
    • Huye
    • Burera
    • Nyamagabe
    • Gisagara
    • Nyaruguru
    • Rwamagana
    • Nyanza
    • Bugesera
    • Kirehe
    • Rubavu
    • Rulindo
    • Ruhango
    • Karongi
    • Gatsibo
    • Ngororero
    • Musanze
    • Gakenke
    • Nyabihu
    • Gicumbi
    • Nyagatare
    • Kayonza