Big is beautiful in Kenya
by Rachel Brooks, KF9, Kenya
My favorite Kiva field partner before I started my fellowship was Kisimu Medical & Education Trust, here in Kenya. At K-MET, microfinance is a smaller part of a community-based health organization. They offer loans to providers (many of them volunteers) so that they can maintain or improve their clinics and services. And they have these wonderfully innovative programs to help women and improve reproductive health.
But as much as programs like these make me go weak at the knees, I’ve also really come around to loving what the scope and focus of a big MFI can offer. Big is beautiful.
Faulu Kenya has more than 90 outlets across the country, over 1000 staff members, and a fairly large headquarters. They are laser-focussed on providing financial services to low-income people, with over 250,000 clients. They want to reach a million clients by 2011.
In a country that is as bountiful and still so poverty-stricken as Kenya, a million clients starts to seem like a good start. Each day, though I get very encouraged by the stories I read about and hear from individual clients, something will drag me back down to Earth. I’ll get a good view of Kibera, the largest slum in Africa, or read that children are dying of something as ancient as cholera in Mukuru, or watch starving Masai cattle shepherded into the city to nibble on brown grass by the airport. Then I’m very glad for Faulu’s big ambitions.
An MFI like Faulu also has the resources to offer really critical training. Before borrowers can take their first loan, they complete a full two day seminar. They pay Kes. 400 (about $5) and they get probably the only training they’ll ever receive on business management, record keeping, customer care, group relations, how to save, and defining a vision for the future. In short, information that could really make your business a success so that you can provide for yourself and your family.
But probably the biggest boon for Faulu is that they are Kenya’s first Deposit Taking Micro-Finance Company under Kenya’s Micro-Finance Act. This just means they can offer savings accounts and re-lend the money. In Kenya ninety percent of the population hides their money under the mattress (and other secret places I can’t reveal), so being able to open an account with Kes. 200 (about $2.50) and earn up to 4-6% interest is important. In interviews, clients have consistently reaffirmed how vital simple access to savings has been to them.
Organizations like K-MET and MFIs like Faulu both make tremendous contributions and Kiva gives them some of the attention they deserve. CLICK HERE to see more examples of the work Kiva field partners do.
Rachel Brooks is a Kiva Fellow working for Faulu Kenya in Nairobi. Don’t hesitate to join the Friends of Faulu Kenya Lending Team./>