The Self-Help Group Approach

Self-Help Groups strengthen Resilience 

Hwange and Binga districts, in Matabeleland North, Zimbabwe continues to experience climate shock events that outstrip the capacity of women to cope with it.  Events such as drought, floods, or heat waves present significant and immediate threats to household food security.  

Support mechanisms, including access to adequate financial resources, are important to better prepare for and cope with such situations.

We have promoted the Self-Help Group (SHG) approach as a way to help communities address livelihood shocks and stresses, enhance food security and strengthen social capital.

In the Ntengwe context, SHGs are groups of 15–20 grassroots women, often comprising the poorest in the community, who undertake common social and economic activities.  In its approach to supporting SHGs, we emphasise the role of training and of helping SHGs in setting up rules and operations through external facilitation, especially in the early stages. 

The number of SHGs in Hwange and Binga districts has been steadily growing since 2013, when we first established an SHG approach. 

The Self-Help Groups are defined as savings groups and are a form of community-based approach to microfinance. We facilitate training for their members on diverse issues such as financial recordkeeping, literacy, and leadership.  

The savings and loans strengthen women’s resilience to climate-related challenges by helping them to plan, adapt to changes, and cope with shocks when they happen. By saving regularly and obtaining access to loans, SHG members accumulate assets and improve their financial security, which helps reduce their overall vulnerability. 

Over the years, Self-Help Groups have been formed into Cluster Level Associations (CLAs) and Federations.  The Cluster Level Associations provide goods and services to the entire community – human resource mobilization, where necessary – need-based skill training in agriculture and business, and influence local level decisions through concerted voice of SHG members participating in governance.  

The Federation coordinate inter-CLA business activities.  It represents the community in decision-making bodies outside the community for pro-people’s policies at local and national level, organize rallies and other awareness programs on issues for women and children’s rights.

The Self-Help approach is an empowerment approach.  It leads to making the world a better place for future generations. 

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