“My main aim is to provide fresh baked products to children, and use imports less,” says Gulniso, a member of one of the 2,600 Community Based Savings Groups (CBSGs) the Aga Foundation has helped establish in Tajikistan to support marginalized women to save money and take out small loans.

The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) notes that thanks to her CBSG and a grant from USAID - US Agency for International Development, Gulniso was able to buy an oven, ingredients and other machinery for her bakery.  She now employs six staff and produces an assortment of cakes and pastries for weddings, birthdays, and everyday occasions.

The Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) established the Community-Based Savings Programme (CBSG) in 2009 to promote community-managed financial services in the disadvantaged communities where it works.  This built on decades of experience with community-managed microfinance approaches, but offered a less cost-intensive approach.  CBSGs respond directly to the financial service needs of the remote and rural poor by providing a secure, convenient place to save and take small loans on flexible terms.  The CBSG savings opportunity is particularly well suited to the remote rural poor.

CBSGs are self-managed groups of 15-25 people and systems are kept simple and transparent to promote independence from AKF, and maintain transparency for members.  There are more than 400,000 AKF CBSG members, of which 73% were women, saving more than 13 million US dollars per year.