Permaculture is based on three ethics: care for the earth, care for the future and care for the people. Ghana Permaculture Institute (GPI) expresses the last point through the creation of financial systems that support and benefit its people in the long term. The financial schemes are further connected to permaculture methods and principles as they promote a banking system where all transactions circulate within a permaculture eco-village. This logic ensures fair trade and seeks to help workers and farmers to set up and manage small-scale business and projects in order to improve standard of living and achieve economic sustainability. It also strengthens solidarity and provides welfare to the members as it supports their families through life events.
Four initiatives can be identified at GPI:
-Ghana Permaculture Loans and Savings Scheme (or GPLASS)
-Ghana Permaculture Staff Welfare
-Permaculture Moringa Farmers Savings and Loans Scheme
-Permaculture Moringa Farmers and Producers Welfare Policies
The schemes have 4 goals:
-enable members to gain financial control
-grant soft and assessable loans to the members
-create a stream of income for members
-energize and sharpen the saving culture of the members
GPLASS was founded on September 31st of 2014 by the management of Ghana Permaculture Institute. It was created to respond to the financial challenges faced by GPI workers by providing loans. It mainly targets staff members but is also extended to farmers. The GPLASS board of management is structured in the following way:
>Chairman: Ankomah Richard >General manager: Agnes Ameyaa >Welfare Secretary: Diana Dabien >Financial officer: Stephen Adarkwa >Loan officer: Ankomah Yeboah Cosmos >Project officer: Kodom Benjamin
The board members meet on the first Wednesday of every month. At the beginning the initiative included 25 members; today there are 38 beneficiaries, with 76% of staff members and 23% of farmers. GPLASS get incomes from four sources:
-passbooks and loan forms sale
-interest on loans
The expenses were initially covered by GPI. Now, GPLASS is able to cover its own expenses, which consists of computers, stationeries, snacks, end of the year party for its members and allowances for its executives.
There are four requirements to qualify for a loan:
-to be a member of the scheme
-must have saved for at least three months
-must have 20% of the requested amount as saving balance
-must complete an application form that should be signed by two members guarantors
The requester of the loan also meets with the project officer to ensure that the money will be well spent.
GPLASS delivers five types of loans:
-short-term loans (Gh¢100.00-Gh¢500.00; interest rate 10%)
-medium-term loans (Gh¢500.00-Gh¢1000.00; interest rate 15%)
-long-term loans (Gh¢1,0001.00+; interest rate 20%)
The money borrowed is then deducted from the salary of GPI employees, which prevents issues of payment. Members possess saving passbooks, and a system of text message to members for credit or debit wallet is also put in place. For the year 2020, 12 people received loans, for a total of Gh¢22,830.00.
For more details and testimonies of members: “Idea behind the establishment of the financial schemes in Ghana Permaculture Institute” posted on the official Youtube channel on May 13th, 2020.
The Ghana Permaculture Staff Welfare guarantees financial support to GPI staff members in case of health issues, marriage, outdooring, parting gifts, funerals and any disasters. The welfare contribution of workers is recorded in welfare passbooks.
The Permaculture Moringa Farmers and Producers Association is a recent initiative designed for farmers only. Its constitution was adopted on 24th May, 2021. The chairman of the association is Opoku Amoateng, one of the moringa farmers. There are about 63 people under the constitution at the moment. There is a monthly contribution of Gh¢20.00 for every member. It comprises the Permaculture Moringa Farmers Savings and Loans Scheme and the Permaculture Moringa Farmers and Producers Welfare Policies.
The Savings and Loans scheme is managed by one of the farmers (Kwaku Frimpong). The loan officer, financial officer and project officer are those of GPLASS. GPI gives training to farmers so that ultimately the board is exclusively constituted of farmers. Membership consists of moringa farmers only after inspection of their moringa farms or after first sale of produce to permaculture, who are then given a passbook at cost of Gh¢10.00. The compulsory saving consists of the deduction of Gh¢2.00 per kilogram of product sold. Its operation is very similar to GPLASS.
The Welfare Policies are similar to the Staff Welfare. An annual get-together for the members of the association is also organized for its members. Because it has been less than three months since the constitution has been adopted, the Permaculture Farmers association is yet to be operative.
Accessing loans from large banks can be quite difficult for employees and small farmers who might oftentimes require urgent financial support as they face several challenges. Thanks to these schemes, GPI alleviates this issue by ensuring that its workers can have access to a loan within a week. The focus of this micro-finance banking system and internal money circulation is not on profit but on poverty alleviation. It creates a sustainable environment for workers and small farmers in rural areas.
GPI is open to any institution seeking advice on how to implement similar saving systems.