Libertad Fish Forever Savings Club
Municipality of Libertad, Antique
Libertad is a coastal fifth class municipality in the northern part of Antique province with 19 barangays where most families rely on fishing as their main source of income. When there is an emergency, many of these families turn to loan sharks to cover their expenses which may put them to indebtedness.
This is a concern that the local government of Libertad wanted to prevent. They saw the need for financial literacy among the members of the community and provide an alternative way to get loans so they can avoid dealing with loan sharks, capitalists, or mismanaged microfinance services.
The Libertad Fish Forever Savings Club is a program implemented by the local government in partnership with Rare Philippines, a conservation organization whose stated mission is to help communities adopt sustainable behaviors toward their natural environment and resources. The initiative was pursued to change the spending behavior of the constituents and promote the habit of saving.
In 2017, they started to organize one savings group after one personnel from the LGU was trained by Rare Philippines. As of June 2022, they have 62 savings groups composed of members not only from the fishing community but from different sectors including youth, senior citizens, PWDs, professionals, etc.
While groups are given the freedom to set their own minimum and maximum contribution as well as their own interest rates, the local government hires “savings facilitators” that ensure the groups follow the program’s general processes and rules. This enables the members of the groups to actively participate in discussions regarding their respective groups’ concerns rather than being passive clients or savers.
Participants of the program also contribute weekly to a social fund used to provide assistance to in-need members. Unused social funds for a cycle are used for community projects such as clean-up drives and purchase of communal items like monobloc chairs which they use during meetings or gatherings.
A clear structure is also present in the program - groups are composed of several savers and each has their own president, while presidents of all groups are part of the Savings Club Federation where they can share their respective savings group’s best practices. There is also an advisory council that monitors the progress of the program, provides technical assistance, and advises on issues and concerns that need to be resolved.
And apart from the impressive savings of the 62 groups covering around 1500 savers, the program also achieved its main goal of helping the constituents of Libertad understand the value of saving - households are becoming more financially wise and resilient therefore reducing the need to rely on loan sharks or microfinance institutions.
The LGU continues to expand the program by providing kits to those who want to start their own savings group, and for existing savings groups, they provide technical assistance and funding for projects. It also started using information and communications technology (ICT) in their program monitoring. The story of the Libertad Fish Forever Savings Club not only continues to change lives within the community but it also became a model for other LGUs implementing the same program.