It’s another beautiful, sunny day in Kenya, one I do not have to spend entirely in the office – yay! I’ve just arrived in Rironi, north-west of Nairobi along with chief operations officer Cyrus and loan officer Peter both from KEEF. It’s only a few minutes’ drive off the main road, but I can already feel the Nairobi-stress leaking out of my body. It’s a slower pace here. Birds chirping merrily. In many ways it reminds me of my own childhood in a small village with ten houses spread around a small pond in the Danish country side, years before I started my own yuppie-life in Copenhagen.
We’ve parked the car in a small, dusty school yard, which is where the loan group has its monthly rendezvous. The group consists exclusively of women – normally the only man allowed is Peter, the loan officer. Each month every group member transfers a savings amount via M-PESA (read about this in a previous blog post) before the meeting, and loan disbursements are made via the cell phones likewise. The methodology is quite simple actually: the more a group member saves, the more she can borrow. At first they can borrow from the groups’ accumulated savings, and after proving that one’s a stable and creditworthy borrower, KEEF allows her to take on a MYC4-loan.
Take Susan Muthoni Njuguna for instance – who you can lend to right now. From the savings in the group she borrowed approx. €200 to buy a cow in 2010. Today, with her own savings of nearly €135, she’s requesting a MYC4-loan of €586 to buy her third cow, and this time of a better quality – more milk, higher profit. In a few years Susan has gone from ‘being idle’, in her own words, to having a farming business with three cows.
Her loan is to be paid back in 18 months, which Susan herself describes as a too short payback period. However, this means that her asset, the cow, will still generate revenue for her, long after she paid off the loan! The group of women seems fully aware of this, since many of them agree that they have to prioritise here and now, but it’s worth it in the long run.
Another aspect I find interesting, is, that Susan tells me that she was still saving more, parallel to repaying her last loan from the group(!). And as Cyrus from KEEF informs me, over 80 % of their borrowers in general repay their loan sooner than expected. Interesting indications I’d say.
When it comes to personality and human qualities, my expectations for this loan group was rather high. As I wrote in my own notes the day before we went on the visit:
I expect to meet people who are really making an effort to increase their living standard, hard-working, committed, happy people. People who do not take their life for granted. People who deserve more than myself, to have a good life, because they have worked for it every single day, and haven’t had everything served on a silver platter from the day they were born.
From what I can tell from a very limited time together with these women: That describes exactly who I met.