Growing 50 shillings (0.6 USD) at a time in Kenya

“I never knew that keeping KSH 50 (around USD $0.60) would have such a big impact on my life – now I know! By saving KSH 50 every week, the stock in my shop, which was initially only five kilograms of sugar worth KSH 325 ($4) has now grown to KSH 5,000 ($60),” said Jenerica Aule.

Jenerica, a widowed mother of four and the sole breadwinner for her family, made those comments a few minutes after graduating from an alternative livelihood training program conducted by Resilience and Economic Growth in the Arid Lands – Improving Resilience (REGAL-IR) in collaboration with the County Government of Isiolo. Jenerica was graduating alongside 115 community members from the remote villages of Lotiki, Alamach and Kambi Garba, in Isiolo County, northern Kenya. These villages are inhabited by the pastoral Turkana, Borana and Somali communities.

REGAL-IR has been working for nine months in Lotiki Community, a settlement of 180 households some 25 kilometers from Isiolo town. As a member of this community, Jenerica is part of Ekinyamit women’s group which was formed in July 2013 and comprises of 10 women who were already engaging in petty trade. Unlike most people around Lotiki, Jenerica does not own any livestock and used to rely on charcoal burning and selling as her only source of income. “The charcoal business was strenuous because I also had household chores to do,” she says. “I used to make between KSH 600-1000 (between $7-11) every two weeks and this was not enough to meet our needs. Sometimes my children and I used to go without food for even a whole day when charcoal business was bad.”

The REGAL-IR team trained members of Ekinyamit women’s group to enable them keep proper business records, review their businesses to know whether they are making a profit or a loss, learn how to save money, and how to handle loans and loan repayment. The training and mentoring has helped to transform Jenerica’s life from that of a charcoal burner to a full time successful small business owner.

By November 2013, Jenerica had begun to expand her business and in December she took her first loan of KSH 800 ($9.5) from the group, which she used to increase her stock to meet the high demand for foodstuff during the Christmas period. She now has stock valuing slightly above KSH 5,000Kshs ($60) and she sells a variety of goods ranging from wheat flour, cooking fat, and vegetables, among others. Jenerica is now thinking about buying her own weighing machine so that she can maximize her profits.

“I make about KSH 1600 ($18.50) a week and from that I can now afford to send my child back to school immediately if he is chased for lack of fees or books. Now I can also afford to eat well. I even wear good clothes and I thank the project for opening my eyes to these possibilities,” explained Jenerica. “I have been saving and I am expecting my daughter to join Form One (junior high school).”

Ekinyamit women’s group is now registered with the Government of Kenya, they have opened a bank account and have a constitution. Its members each contribute savings of KSH 50 ($0.6) per week and, from the collective savings, members are able to take out loans which they repay with interest.

Resilience and Economic Growth in Arid Lands – Improving Resilience is a five-year project to reduce hunger and poverty among pastoral communities in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs). Implemented by Adeso and its five consortium partners, the program is funded by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Feed the Future. The program will strengthen social, economic and environmental resilience for some 558,000 people (93,000 households) in Isiolo, Garissa, Marsabit, Turkana and Wajir counties of Kenya.