Hyenas circling the hut
Friday, February 19, 2016 at 10:25AM
Paul Rippey

A big problem with Savings Groups is how successful they are.

They often last for many years, and members save a lot of money. Maybe not individual members, but when you multiply individual savings by twenty members or so, the group’s savings become a nice bundle. And, when you multiple that by the hundreds or thousands of groups that may exist in an area, then the sums get very important indeed.

So Savings Groups - because they are so successful - tend to consolidate a lot of money in one place, or at least, close enough that clever people start thinking of clever ways to separate poor people from their money. 

Some readers may have heard Amrik Heyer’s presentation at SG2015 in Lusaka: she used the phrase “the hyenas are circling the hut” to describe this phenomenon, which FSD Kenya has begun to study. 

It’s not a pretty picture. Groups get targeted by all sorts of people and institutions, including those whose job it is to protect the group. Some of those trying to relieve the poor of their money that we saw in Kenya include:


There’s good news and bad news. The good news is that most groups are smart, and they remember to follow the procedures they have learned, keep information confidential, and not lend or borrow outside the group. 

But - the bad news: sometimes the hyenas succeed and poor people lose their money to clever lazy corrupt people. Do NGOs have any moral responsibility for post-project outcomes? Is there anything we can do, in fact?

Well, yes to both of those questions.

If we put poor people into a situation filled with risk, it’s appropriate to take steps to reduce the risk. And, yes, there is a lot we can do. It all starts with the training we give to the groups - not just about how to run a group well, although we do that - but also about what the members should expect after the project ends.

I’ll be writing more about that in days to come and I would love to hear your ideas also. Write me here if you like. 

Article originally appeared on Savings Revolution (http://savings-revolution.com/).
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