Business blossoms in a rural Kenyan village. Community savings and loans, and biblical business skills training launch business growth. Consider Monica's story.
Miles from water, a community group saves to set up wells and water tanks.
Jane learned to multiply her income with business skills training and microloans from Five Talents
Five Talents Kenya is one of the most successful microfinance programs in Eastern Africa, serving the rural poor with over 99% repayment on loans and rapidly growing portfolios.
I recently returned from an incredible trip to Kenya.
The purposes of the trip were to participate in the launch of Five Talents Kenya, to hold our regular Five Talents International Board Meeting, and to see the progress made in our programs (specifically our Kenyan programs) to date. We participated in a number of meetings and celebrations, but the highlight of the trip came when we were able to visit clients on their home ground and see the amazing transformation that has occurred in the lives of the people touched by this ministry.
Monday, March 7 was our first "official" day, and was taken up by our FTI board meeting, where we reviewed the progress of our programs world-wide, with a particular emphasis on our African programs. Although our programs are strong, we continue to be concerned about our ability to keep functioning in conflict areas, especially in Burundi and South Sudan. That said, it continues to be a source of great inspiration to see how our clients are able to keep operations running in the face of such hardships. As the Bishop of Juba told our Program Director, "Your friends come and visit when you are sick."
On Tuesday, we celebrated the launching of Five Talents Kenya, in a ceremony attended by five Kenyan bishops and an enthusiastic crowd. It was more of a worship service than a business meeting, and reflected our hopes for a bright future for FTK.
The highlight of the day, however, was our visit to "the field" that afternoon. We were able to see the Thungururu Community Bank in operation, and were able to meet Monica, a Five Talents client who used a small (approximately $50) loan to develop a thriving petrol station. We learned that there are now over 40 small businesses operating in the community!
On Wednesday, we travelled to two separate locations to see possibilities for additional expansion. My team went to Mbeere Diocese, where we learned that they are already starting savings groups in anticipation of Five Talents, and have over 8000 people lined up! Their drive is amazing!
Our group had the easier day, as we only had to drive for two hours over some really bumpy dirt roads to get to our meetings. It is easy to forget how challenging the logistics can be in this part of the world!
A personal highlight for me was the opportunity to meet with a young man by the name of Robert Martin. He introduced himself to me, and reminded me that he attended a seminar that I taught in 2012 on business, which emphasized Christian business principles. He is a teacher, and now has a thriving poultry business as well. In addition, he serves as the chairman of the board for the Community Bank! He credits us with giving him the skills and inspiration to start his business. Although I think he gives us too much credit, it is indeed inspiring to see what he has done with a little training and a lot of ambition!
Once again, I came away in awe of these people, and what they can do with just a little assistance from us, coupled with their own innate dignity and drive. It is a humbling experience to be a small part of this ministry!
Jim Oakes serves as a Board Chair of Five Talents USA.
Photos by Joe Paulini for Five Talents.
Sampson grew up in an agricultural community amidst fields of maize, coffee, pineapples, and beans.
While there are a few larger plantations in the region, most residents of Sampson's community are small-scale farmers. They struggle to eke out a living and meet basic financial needs. Many keep poultry or livestock to feed their families. A few sell in the local markets, but many business opportunities are yet to be explored. Development and escaping poverty are on everyone's minds.
With few formal jobs, lack of capital, and limited financial services, many young men in the region don't think small businesses can work. They turn to crime. Unemployment and alcohol abuse are rampant.
Sampson's story took a different turn. At the encouragement of friends and his local church, Sampson joined a Five Talents savings group. Here he learned financial management and business skills. He also gained access to savings and loans.
With advice from his group leader, Sampson took a loan of 50,000 Kenya Shillings ($500) from the community savings and used it to buy a small business for animal feeds.
He began sourcing and selling products to small farmers, quickly paying back his loan and using profit to further develop his business. Many of his neighbors were losing animals to disease or malnutrition. Sampson hopes to help these farmers protect their assets and strengthen their community.
Last year, Sampson took a larger loan of 120,000 Kenya Shillings ($1,200). He has been faithfully paying back and continuing to grow his business. Sampson has also been using his profits to construct and develop at home.
"I hope to do big things through our bank", he says.
The Thurunguru Community Bank is the third community bank opened in partnership with Five Talents and the Diocese of Thika. Its members now have access to a variety of financial services including savings accounts and educational, business, and emergency loans. The community bank is a source of pride and signals new opportunities for the residents of Thurunguru.
Learn more about Five Talents programs in Kenya and help more entrepreneurs like Sampson.
Photos (from top) by Joseph Paulini: Sampson welcomes bank and community leaders to his shop, Sampson serves customers, A collection of animal feeds ready for sale inside the shop, Members of the Thurunguru Community Bank Make a Transaction.
A decade ago, two out of every three Kenyans made their living as farmers. While the numbers have changed slightly, the vast majority of Kenyans are involved in agriculture or animal horticulture.
This has meant good business for Geoffrey Mwangi (29), a qualified vet who also owns a supply shop that serves the local community of pastoral farmers in Kairi.
Although Geoffrey is single and has no children of his own, following his graduation from Veterinary College in 2010, he found himself supporting his parents financially. He also offered to help pay his sister's school fees. Even as a qualified vet, this was a strain on his limited finances, and when a friend asked him to move to Kiari to take employment as a sales representative in another veterinary practice, he jumped at the opportunity.
In Kiari, Geoffrey found himself attending the local Anglican church, along with many of his clients. It was here that he was introduced to TCDT, the local Five Talents partner programme, and given the opportunity to join the Trust Group and start saving small amounts on a regular basis. After six months he had saved approximately ksh50,000 ($500).
'Before joining the group, I had many financial problems because I had nowhere to start financially. The reason I started to save was to have my own business – this has always been my vision right from the start. This is what I started saving for. I did not have enough savings to get a loan from a bank but the microfinance programme helped me to save enough. Because my income was very low when I first left college and I needed a large capital I had to save bit by bit, in small steps.
I took my first loan in 2012 for ksh100,000 ($1,000). I then bought my first motorbike which I used it in my field work when serving my customers. There was a very high return, it made travelling around convenient and easy and I was enjoying having it. I was able to repay it within 6-8 months. During this time, I was still employed in the Veterinary shop as a Sales Representative.
After another 6 months, I borrowed another loan which I used to restock the shop where I was working. I think it was for ksh150,000 ($1,500). Once I had repaid that loan I borrowed another loan straight away for ksh120,000 ($1,200) and bought another motorbike. The first motorbike I bought is rented out as a Boda-boda to generate some more income. I rent it for ksh300 ($3) a day, and on average I rent it out 6 days a week as we do not work on Sundays.'
In addition to access to loan capital and the resulting income streams, Geoffrey has also begun to receive small dividends from the group. These enabled Geoffry to earn an interest on his savings for the first time at a rate higher than savers in the UK can currently earn. And that's not all. Foundational business training is an integral element of each of the Five Talents programmes, and Geoffrey received a series of courses on financial literacy and business planning and best practice. In May 2014, following the completion of his financial training, Geoffrey took the plunge and borrowed ksh200,000 ($2,000) to start his own veterinary business. Members of the Five Talents team met up with Geoffrey during a visit to the area in November 2015.
'So far I think it has changed my life by 360 degrees. Everything that I have now can be traced back to the Trust Group. As a person who had no idea where to start, I was able to work and save enough to purchase my motorbikes and even get a bigger loan to start my own business. Now I am my own boss. I have also bought somewhere to build my own house.
The best thing that I have learned from the group is that unity will give you a bigger step ahead rather than accumulating just your own savings. It is very hard to keep your own savings because at any time you can go and get them and misuse them. When you are part of such a group, you know that what you are borrowing is directed to a specific activity that you want to undertake, and that activity must be profitable.'
The World Bank estimates that 80% of sub-Saharan Africa is unbanked. This is sometimes because the bank is simply too far or expensive for them to reach. Low levels of education mean that many lack the ability to negotiate the complexities of a formal bank. In many cases, the bank views these people as simply too risky to work with. The impact of that even the most simple financial infrastructure on the lives of entrepreneurs like Geoffrey is clear to see. Learn more about Five Talents programs in Kenya.
Published by Five Talents UK. Images by Adam Dickens Photography.
When you're sitting with Antony in his workshop, the conversation often turns to education. Despite - or perhaps because - his father's financial difficulties forced him out of school at the age of thirteen, Antony places a serious value on education. Whether it's the practical welding training he undertook several years ago, the business training he now receives via his local Trust Group, or the schooling of his three children, it's clear that Anthony sees education as closely linked to personal and financial fulfillment.
After he had left school, Antony worked a number of short-term jobs to raise the fees to pay for a short course in the basics of welding and metal work. This training turned out to be a good investment. In the area of Kiambu County where Anthony grew up, new buildings were springing up every day, and his welding business quickly found its first customers.
For two years Antony spent most of his days shaping metal into doors, gates, and window frames in an open field. Despite the demand for his expertise, limited resources meant that Antony struggled to get his business to gain momentum. By this time, Antony had a wife and three children. Providing his children with a quality education was a priority, but because Antony's wife Lucy was unable to find work most months his single income stream was entirely used up with three sets of school fees and household necessities.
In 2012, Antony was invited by a long-term customer and friend to become the 64th member of his local Five Talents Trust Group. For the first 6 months, Antony would regularly deposit small amounts that ranged from Ksh 300 to Ksh 2,000 ($3 - $20). During this time, Antony's Group received basic financial training and began to learn the basics of good business. After six months of demonstrating his commitment to the group and the business training, Anthony's peers choose to offer him a loan of $190 from the pooled savings.
During the months it took to repay the first two loans (the second of which was for about $600), Anthony continued to benefit from the business and financial literacy training. Over time, the fruits of his work ethic were beginning to pay off. The combination of his growing capital and sharp business sense lead him to rent a large workshop on a busy street. With the remaining balance of the second loan, Antony was able to help his wife, Lucy, start a small grocery business.
When members of the Five Talents UK team visited Antony's Trust Group in November 2015, he was servicing his 3rd loan of Ksh 120,000. Depending on the rate of work, Antony's company Rafiki Metal Works was turning an average profit of Ksh 1,000 ($10) per day. His growing customer base has meant that Antony has hired two of his neighbours to keep up. And that's not all! Lucy's grocery business has also flourished.
Hearing Anthony speak about his plans leave the listener with little doubt as to his future successes: "I would like to expand my business by having another branch in a different location where I could reach more clients. The welding business has a ready market in developing areas like Murera Sisal and it is a potential place to work from. I also would like to increase my sources of income. I would like to build some rental houses that would give me a monthly income."
For the moment, he is focused on paying his children's school fees, but having seen the combined benefits of the welding course and the business training provided by the Trust Group, Antony says that when he feels his business and family are financially secure, he will pursue a more advanced business management course.
Learn more about Five Talents programs in Kenya and help more families like Antony's today.
Reporting from Five Talents UK with Adam Dickens Photography.
When she was younger, Anne showed promise in school and finished high school earlier than the average American teenager. Despite this, as an adult Anne's options were limited. She and her husband supported their family of five on a single income stream from his small tailoring business. Every shilling was spent on necessities without room for saving or investments to grow their income. Their credit history with the local commercial bank was poor so accessing business loans was impossible.
Anne joined her local Five Talents Trust Group in August 2013 on the recommendation of a close family friend. At first, Anne's savings ranged between ksh 300-ksh 350 (about $3) a month. This was the few small coins she could spare after her daily visit to the market.
After a number of months of saving and business training, Anne was invited to take a loan of ksh 5,000 ($50) from the group's pooled savings which she used to buy in a small flock of free-range chicks. By repaying this loan, Anne unlocked a much larger loan of 60,000 ksh ($600) which went towards renting a small plot of land and purchasing a larger flock of chicks consisting of both layers and broilers for eating. When we visited her in late 2015, business was going well. Anne and her husband had completed construction of their new house, and all of her three children were attending school.
Anne proudly told us 'Being in the group made me more assertive to grow from a housewife and help generate an income to support my husband. I have learned that savings regardless of how little can boost you a lot in the future and that coming together as a community can help you go far. I am proud of my growth and bringing change to my life.'
Reporting by Five Talents Kenya and Five Talents UK with Adam Dickens Photography.
Rose sells garments and shoes at a market stall. To purchase much of the stock in her stall, she took out a loan of 20,000 KES (US $200). While this may not seem like a lot of money, it is a colossal figure for many small business owners in Kenya, especially for those who lack access to banks and financial services.
Rose estimates it will take her about 10 months to repay the loan. Members of her savings trust group, encourage her during their weekly meetings. Group members share advice, discuss their businesses, and help market one another's work. They also learn vital skills in business management and development.
Without the loan, Rose says that she would not have been able to open the market stall and provide a livelihood for herself and her young son.
When you support Five Talents, you help entrepreneurs like Rose build a brighter future for their families through training, mentorship, savings, and community development.
Make a gift to Five Talents today and create a better tomorrow for entrepreneurs and their families.
NAIROBI, Kenya -- I saw a miracle yesterday.
I've been in Nairobi attending the second GAFCON Conference with a number of fellow Five Talents Board Members and leaders, meeting many of our clients and partners and making new friends. We took a day away from the conference yesterday to drive up to Thika to visit the Thika Community Development Trust, a savings group sponsored by Five Talents.
Under the guidance and leadership of Bishop Gideon Githiga, and the direction of Peterson Karanja, Program Director, the Trust has grown dramatically from its modest beginnings in 2005. The program now has almost 5,000 members, 41 savings groups, and over $1 million in accumulated savings. The program is being acknowledged a great success, and is already being replicated in one adjacent diocese, with two more dioceses planning to launch similar programs. I spoke briefly this morning with Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, the Primate of Kenya, who spoke highly of the Thika program and said that he hopes that they will eventually have similar programs in every diocese in Kenya!
Exciting as this is, Five Talents has always been about more than numbers. Indeed, there are numerous microfinance programs in existence that can boast growing membership and good financial performance. However, Five Talents has always had a commitment to reach the "riskier, poorer, and smaller" areas that have been underserved by commercial programs, and has maintained a focus on the whole person, rather than just financial performance. And by that standard, this program is even more impressive.
I had visited Thika twice before, and had heard Bishop Gideon state previously his commitment to microfinance as a key part of ministry in his diocese. But yesterday I heard firsthand the testimony of a parish priest, who stated that families in his community had grown stronger as a result of their participation in their savings group, and that their prosperity and well-being had increased to the point that they were able to meet their own needs, and were able to contribute more to the life of the church as a result.
One outcome of this development has been that the congregation is better able to support itself and the diocese, including greater material support. Bishop Gideon had previously told me that he could tell which of the parishes in the diocese had active microfinance programs, because they became healthier parishes. But this firsthand confirmation extended all the way to the individual family! Their goal is to expand until they have a savings group in every parish in the diocese.
I saw Bishop Martyn Minns last night after returning to Nairobi, and told him the story of the day's events in Thika. I reminded him that Five Talents was started at his house just 15 years ago, and has grown from that outlandish vision into a ministry that last year served 72,725 clients around the world, and is living out daily its commitment to "create jobs, fight poverty, and transform lives".
I feel amazingly privileged to be a small part of this ministry, and am thankful beyond words for having been able to witness this miracle unfolding! To God be the glory!
Jim Oakes, a 30-year veteran of the health care information systems industry, is on the Five Talents USA Board of Directors.
Hop on a bus heading out of Kenya's capital, Nairobi, and you'll soon learn one reason why formal savings and lending opportunities are often hard to come by for women and men living in poor, rural villages. The further out you go, the fewer banks there are – until you get to a village like Thungururu, where there's no bank at all.
According to Martin Givachu (R), a local teacher who is chairman of the Thungururu Savings Trust Group established by Five Talents in partnership with Thika Community Development Trust (TCDT), the village was the last settlement within the region to receive a proper electricity supply.
The lack of infrastructure and development in Thungururu is due, in part, to the fact that the most profitable cash crops – like sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and flowers – are not grown here. Martin said the villagers mostly rely on subsistence farming, growing fruit and grain and rearing poultry on a small scale.
Without the savings trust group that Five Talents has helped to establish, villagers would have to travel by two matatu (minibuses) in order to make use of banking facilities.
What's more, once at the bank, the villagers would have to pay fees both to set up an account and to make a withdrawal.
''This is a big problem here," said Martin, "because in addition to the time spent traveling to Thika or Matu, it would cost 600 KES (US $7) [to set up an account] – money which villagers do not have available."
Tiny Accounts Unprofitable for Traditional Banks
Banks in Kenya – and in many countries throughout the developing world – do not like to handle small accounts, largely because of the expense of running them, write MIT Professors Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo in their book, Poor Economics.
"Deposit-taking institutions are heavily regulated, for good reason – the government is worried about fly-by-night operators running away with people's savings – but this means that managing each account requires bank employees to fill out some amount of paperwork, which can quickly become too burdensome, relative to any money that the bank can hope to make from these tiny accounts."
In the future, Five Talents hopes to upgrade the savings trust in Thungururu to a full community bank, which would offer a wider range of banking services within this marginalised rural community.
''Not only would this benefit our current 105 active members, but we could also expand our operation and serve the whole community," said Martin.
Below, you'll find a selection of photographs taken by Adam Dickens that show the beauty and the poverty of this village in rural Kenya:
The rural village of Thungururu, Kenya was the last place in its region to receive proper access to electricity.
Rose, a member of the Thungururu Savings Trust Group, sells garments and shoes at a market stall. To purchase much of the stock in her stall, she took out a loan of 20,000 KES (US $234). She estimates it will take her about 10 months to repay the loan. Without it, she said she would not have been able to open the market stall and provide a livelihood for herself and her young son.
This is one of the garments that Rose has on display in her stall.
A boy without shoes runs through a field in Thungururu.
UPDATE: New Community Bank Opened in Thurunguru
Five Talents is pleased to announce that the Village of Thurunguru has now successfully opened the first Community-Owned Bank in the region:
Special thanks to Five Talents UK Program Manager Rachel Lindley. Photography by Adam Dickens.
This photo, taken by Adam Dickens for Five Talents, features the dress-making shop of Beatrice in the village of Kibugu, Kenya.
Beatrice once made ladies' garments on a sewing machine at her home. But after joining a Five Talents savings and loan group, she set her sights on expanding her business. Today, she has her own shop, a second sewing machine, and an employee.
In the coming weeks, Beatrice hopes to invest in an embroidery machine with the help of a $160 loan.
Like most of the community banks Five Talents has helped to found, the one in this photo by Adam Dickens started as a local trust (or savings) group in the Kenyan village of Kairi. Five Talents partners in Kenya with the Anglican Diocese of Thika and the Thika Community Development Trust (TCDT).
For almost seven years, a high school teacher named Susan Kamani has served as the chairperson of the trust group-turned-community bank. The bank is open to everyone in the community and now has 753 members.
According to Kamani, the village and the surrounding area has in recent years suffered from a drop in world coffee prices. As a result, many small farmers are abandoning coffee planting and turning instead to small-scale dairy or poultry farming as a means of generating income for their family.
Five Talents' program in Kenya has achieved a maturity and a sustainability that we desire for every one of our programs.
Photo by Adam Dickens for Five Talents.