Project Regions Impressions

Experience Sparkassenstiftung’s work from a different angle

Following his trips through Ghana, Laos and Vietnam in 2012, the photographer Philip Ruopp collected impressive images in the Caucasus and in Central Asia in 2015 on behalf of Sparkassenstiftung. Close to the people, he experienced the different cultural, religious and political environments in Sparkassenstiftung’s partner countries. The photographs not only portray people’s everyday life, but they also give direct insight into Sparkassenstiftung’s project work.


Nation-building relies on education. Sparkassenstiftung is therefore assisting the Ghana Co-operative Credit Unions Association (CUA) with the establishment and sustainable development of its own training academy known as the 'Credit Union Training Center (CUTRraC). Having worked successfully in Ghana since 2010, Sparkassenstiftung has since extended its activities to The Gambia next door. By providing demand-oriented, affordable and methodologically meaningful training services, CUTraC aims to strengthen the Credit Unions and other microfinance associations and so enable them to deliver financial services to a wider range of people, especially in rural areas.

The first Credit Union was founded in Jirapa in 1955. Today it is one of the largest 'branch offices' in the country. Together with the Rhineland Savings Banks Association (RSGV), Sparkassenstiftung has been engaged in a partnership project with the Ghana Co-operative Credit Unions Association (CUA) since 2010.
Kwame Asamoah has been breeding chickens on his farm for three years. Thanks to a startup loan from the Credit Union he now sells around 3,000 eggs a day.
Behind this Ghanaian hiker, we can clearly make out some traditional sacrificial bowls which continue to be used for small animal sacrifices as a sign of gratitude or when making a request.
In terms of its economic development and its democratic government, Ghana is one of Africa’s model states – this holds great promise for the future of this small Ghanaian child.
The kente weaver Kojo Opoku manufactured 4,000 kente bookmarks for Sparkassenstiftung. They were sent out with last year's Annual Report as a complimentary gift.
The moneybox shown here is fire resistant and extremely hard to break open. Around 20,000 of them were distributed to the members of the Credit Unions. Opening it requires two keys – the saver has one and the other is in the hands of a Credit Union staff member who comes to open the box with the saver at the end of the month. The contents are then credited to the saver's account. These moneyboxes are a firm favourite with tradespeople wishing to save part of their earnings on a daily basis.
Sparkassenstiftung's project work in Ghana focuses on basic and further training measures for Credit Union staff and on so-called 'training of trainers' (ToT). Sparkassenstiftung has been supporting the Credit Union’s training academy CUTRraC since 2010.
The owner of a small boutique likes to pay her day's takings into the Credit Union when she closes her shop in the evening. For many years now, she has been using a green-and-white plastic bag as a cash box.
Ms. Abena Danso, a teacher at the comprehensive school in Tumu, knows how important education is. She has been saving money for years now to enable her children to get a good education.
The Talensi people, an ethnic group who have lived in the north of Ghana since the 11th century, still practice their ancestors’ traditional way of life. Most of the villages around Tonga Hills are without running water or electricity.

Photographer: Philip Ruopp, (c) Sparkassenstiftung

Laos and Vietnam

Depositing money safely, getting a loan, buying insurance and transferring payments – and all with the smallest amounts of money. For low-income earners, making ends meet on a day-to-day basis is a major challenge. A large network of microfinance institutions that supplies these people with needs-oriented financial services is crucial to financial inclusion. In Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar, Sparkassenstiftung is assisting its project partners to build up and expand a microfinance network. The aim is to improve living conditions in rural households and also strengthen micro and small entrepreneurs.

In addition to her small bird and fish breeding business, Ms. Manola Joy has her own shop in which she sells various homegrown foods and a small selection of household items – all thanks to microloans from the Woman & Family Development Fund (WFDF). In Laos, the WFDF is part of a regional Sparkassenstiftung project in former Indochina and Myanmar.
Even in the 21st century, the Buddhist monks in Vientiane, Laos, still adhere very closely to their traditional teachings.
This photo gives us a good idea of where and how Vietnamese women store their money.
Ms. Chan and her neighbours from Pha Pong in Laos weave rice baskets (known as 'Thip Kao') which they then sell for a fair price to locals and tourists. They purchase the raw materials using a group loan.
After an entire day of harvesting rice, Ms. Pham from Naxay in Laos looks suitably exhausted.
Bananas, vegetables and fish are the major food items sold on Vietnam's markets.
This primary school in Thabok, Laos, is situated right next to the temple in which the center meeting takes place. Following the official ceremony, WFDF staff share out the remaining biscuits and water bottles amongst the school children.
The WFDF center meetings enable women on the poverty threshold to access simple financial services on site. As these clients cannot get to the cities, the regular center meetings take place in the temples located in their small villages.
For a number of years now, Mr Thi Mai and his wife from Nam Giang in Vietnam have secured their family's livelihood by handcrafting scissors in their own small-scale enterprise.
The Muong women (one of the 54 ethnic minorities in Vietnam) all wear a traditional red and blue robe which they make themselves in a painstakingly laborious process.

Photographer: Philip Ruopp, (c) Sparkassenstiftung 


In project countries with a Soviet past, people have little faith in banks or the financial sector. Responsible finance – which implies a fair balance of interests between financial institutions and their customers, staff and business partners on the one hand and their shareholders and donors on the other – thus commands centre stage in project work in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The key components in this context include financial education, consumer protection and the creation of a range of responsible financial services.

World Savings Day and Co.: In Armenia, the rural population in particular does not trust the banking system. Sparkassenstiftung not only provides financial education but helps optimise the banking sector in a bid to strengthen potential customers' confidence in local banks.
His cattle are this Armenian farmer's biggest asset. The entire family lives off the proceeds from the sale of meat, milk and leather goods. Adequate and customised financial services are very important for him, as they allow him to breed, feed and look after his animals. They also enable him to deposit the income from his business securely.
Applauded by the savings mascot, ‘Grovia’ the ant, this young boy receives his prize as winner of the World Savings Day painting competition organised by the Liberty Bank Georgia. A moneybox modelled on his winning painting and a savings account are not only great prizes but initial steps on the way to responsible money management.
A microloan from his trusted local bank enables this stonemason in Armenia to buy new tools and materials. He has also been able to take on an employee to help him run his small business.
This Armenian man is a financial adviser for the people of the small village of Yeghegis. The locals here trust him with their valuables which he stores safely in the secure deposit box behind him on the left.
With its poverty rate continuing to fall steadily, Armenia is heading in the right direction. In rural regions this process is a little slower, because it takes longer for macroeconomic impacts to trickle down. By supporting access to financial services across the board, Sparkassenstiftung aims to bring about tangible improvements in people’s living conditions in the more remote areas of the country, too.
In Azerbaijan’s capital of Baku, modernity meets tradition: The Mosque of the Martyrs – also known as the Turkish Mosque – is located directly next to the famous Flame Towers.
This carpet weaver from Azerbaijan specialises in the manufacture of custom-made products. To mark the birthday of the country's President, this small business owner made a carpet depicting the head of state's portrait.
He looks like a real cowboy. And indeed the work of this Azeri cattle driver is not all that far removed from the Wild West. He is responsible for ensuring the 100 or so head of cattle make it back to the meadow safely.

Some 1,100 kilometres long, the Caucasus stretches from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea. The highest elevations are some 5,642 metres above sea level. The Caucasus covers territory in Russia, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Photographer: Philip Ruopp, (c) Sparkassenstiftung

Central Asia

HR development and training as well basic financial literacy and savings mobilisation are at the heart of Sparkassenstiftung's work in Central Asia. In Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, Sparkassenstiftung is helping to strengthen the banking sector by professionalising training structures.

In Uzbekistan, Central Asia’s most populous country with approximately 30 million inhabitants, project support focuses on micro and medium-sized enterprises, on national economic development and on the creation of a national financial education strategy.

The Women's Committee of Uzbekistan is helping to improve women’s role and status in the family and society. This is precisely the reason why Sparkassen chose it to partner the financial sector development project in Uzbekistan which focuses on business owners and startup entrepreneurs. With many opportunities for training available, these young seamstresses might also become self-employed one day.
‘Aksakal’ (which translates as ‘white beard/s’) played an important role in the Caucasus and Central Asia prior to the advent of the Soviet Union. The oldest and wisest members of the village community were the leaders and served as advisers and judges. This 90-year-old man, who lives in a village in the Kyrgyz mountains, continues this tradition to this day. He wears his 'Kalpak', the traditional headgear for Kyrgyz men, every day with pride.
A tactile approach to financial education: Sparkassenstiftung has been offering business games for various target groups in its project countries since 2003. In Uzbekistan, the Microbusiness Game is one of the most important tools for promoting financial literacy amongst children and young people. In many places, business games have already become an integral part of the school curriculum. Moreover, many teachers have undergone training in order to be able to deliver financial education to their pupils.
Dressed in the traditional Kyrgyz school uniform, these three boys have to walk nearly 10 kilometres every day to get to school. And yet they can still consider themselves fortunate, because right up until 1960 less than 20 per cent of the population actually received a school education.
A moment of calm. At the age of 89, this grandmother of seven is not easily ruffled. Sporting the traditional Kyrgyz headwear, she enjoys her daily cup of tea, which she drinks out of a special bowl called a 'tschyny'.
Financial reserves are particularly important for poorer people in rural Kyrgyzstan. If they have savings, people like this farmer can bridge any financial bottlenecks caused by a poor harvest or absence from work due to ill health.
For young people, the process of shaping their identity is a decisive one. The Women's Committee of Uzbekistan is therefore helping young girls and women to become self-reliant. Regular school events prepare them for all the demands of daily life. Financial education is very important here because self-sufficiency requires knowledge about money, financial products and the benefits of saving.
This knife-grinder has been a customer at Sparkassenstiftung's Uzbek partner bank for 12 years. During this time, he has taken out several small loans to increase the size of his workshop, recruit staff and purchase new tools.

The Uzbek 'sum' replaced the Russian rouble in 1994. The bundle of notes that the vendor is counting is just enough for two packets of cigarettes.
Modern banking in Kyrgyzstan: This man is employed at our partner bank Bai-Tushum. He is also one of the first generation of graduates from the dual vocational education and training scheme for bank professionals in Bishkek. Sparkassenstiftung has been supporting this special training model in Central Asia with a regional project since 2014.

Photographer: Philip Ruopp, (c) Sparkassenstiftung 

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