Nuriah's business relied on funding from loan sharks who charged exorbitant interest for quick cash. When she gained access to secure savings and low interest loans, her family and business both benefited.
Rice banks provide alternative savings and empower cooperative business among the poor.
The farming village of Mtambula sits in the highland region of Iringa, Tanzania. There is a population of roughly 4,000 people, and like many places in East Africa, this is set to expand rapidly. At the time of writing, more than half of the community is school-aged.
In 2015, Five Talents partner in Tanzania, Mama Bahati Foundation, identified Mtambula as an area for expansion. After a period of sensitization, they started a Trust Group with just five members. The program quickly attracted interest, and membership has spiked as the women begin to recommend the group to their friends and families. At the moment, average savings per person range from as little as Tsh 40,000 (about $18) to Tsh 100,000 ($45), which demonstrates the level of poverty in the area.
Elizabeth Sanga joined the group after being persuaded by her neighbor. When asked why she joined, Elizabeth simply says that she was easily converted "due to the transformation I observed in my neighbors."
"Before I joined MBF group I suffered from a shortage of capital, [I was] out of stock and was about to close the business. Our village is so far from town that financial institutions feel reluctant to provide financial services. We used to borrow money from money lenders with higher interest rates. But now we thank God for MBF because now we can get a loan with a very affordable interest rate."
Elizabeth is a 26 year-old mother of three and a savvy businesswomen. Her children Josephine, Boniface, and Godfrey range from nine months to three years old, and when a member of the MBF team interviewed her, Elizabeth was also looking after her sister's two children.
Elizabeth's eldest child, Josephine, has just started primary school. Twenty-odd years ago, Elizabeth was doing the same, but unlike her mother, Josephine will progress well past primary school. Elizabeth said that she doesn't "have plans for further education" but would rather "make sure" that her children receive higher education levels than she did.
After getting two weeks of pre-loan training I received my first loan in March 2015, It was Tsh 200,000 ($90) The loan was used to purchase stocks for my shop. I even remember what it was, 5 cartons of bar soap, 1bag of sugar, 1 bag of wheat flour, and other small retails stocks."
After a few years of saving small amounts and taking business loans, the Trust Group has had a tangible impact on Elizabeth's life. After one meeting, she ticks off on her hand the improvements, which range from the quality of her family's diet - which now consists of more than two meals a day - to her abilities to pay for all school costs, like uniforms, books, and other school requirements. The improvements are not limited to her domestic situation, business is going well, and Elizabeth is looking to expand her operations:
"My plan in future is to be the wholesaler in our village, I want to be a supplier to all of the retail shops within Mtambula and the nearby villages."
Special thanks to the MBF team and Five Talents UK for this interview and the accompanying photos.
Here's an example of a micro-enterprise that has matured and expanded beyond what is sometimes called a "survival business." This stand in Iringa, Tanzania, is owned by a woman named Hamida and offers everything from soda pop to fresh fruit and vegetables.
Hamida was one of the first clients of Five Talents' partner in Tanzania, Mama Bahati Foundation (MBF) having joined in 2006.
Following the tragic death of her husband she had to find a way of supporting her children.
After attending a local meeting and seeing how friendly it was she decided to join a group. She received business training and a first loan of $30. She used this loan to invest in her fruit and vegetable stall and pay for her son's school fees.
Over the years Hamida's business has flourished and she now generates daily income of between $9-12. She saves some of this money and invests the rest in her business. She is now a trusted client and recently took out a loan of approx. $600.
Hamida says she can really see the difference that the training and support make in her life. She can now meet all of her household expenses and send her children to school.
Hamida plans to focus on making her one business stable before opening her own clothing line in the town. She also hopes to one day see the house that she started with her late husband completed.
Photos by Adam Dickens for Five Talents.
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.
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.
Microsavings is contributing to the development and strengthening of entire communities in some of the world’s poorest regions. Learn how.
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.