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Friday, 28 June 2013

Loan default bears village bank in Laikipia

By Annet Njeri
Talk of a loan and every one will smile when granted one. Even the maiden Jubilee Government aims to empower women and the young people using loans albeit with low interests. But as Professor Ngugi wa Thiongo put in his book The Devil On The Cross, “no one regrets the going as much as the coming”. In Kenya, one man only confessed that he has never taken a loan in his life even the common student loan from the Higher Education Loans Board. That man is the high flying lawyer Ahmed Nassir Abdullahi. He don't believe in empowering himself with one and from his religious and philosophical view, interest on a loan is against human principles.

Wangwaci young farmers is a village investment group that was started in 2011.The group was started by farmers who came together, faced with a similar situation; inability to pay loans given to them by Equity bank. The main reason for defaulting was due to drought that struck the area in 2009 making it impossible for the farmers to realize what they had invested in their farms.

Members designing a poultry house.
Currently, the group has an active member of seventeen. “We have a strong bonding amongst ourselves. You know all of us salvaged one another from the dreary hand of the auctioneer. Our items were almost put under the auctioneer’s hammer,” reminisced Naphtali Kairu the group secretary, “we had to start working in the farm of each member for two hours to enable us raise money to pay for the loan”.

Immediately they finished repaying the loan, they thought of keeping off the banks. The only way was to pool resources which will enable them access for financial aid. That when they gave birth to Wangwaci Young Farmers Self-Help Group. 

The group has managed to raise over Ksh 200 000 in savings. This money is never taken to the same banks which almost made them bankrupt. It circulates among the members. Every four months, members meet and those who had a loan repay the entire amount. They then loan back the money again to members to be repaid in four months time at an interest rate of 30%.

Meanwhile as they wait to meet after four months members have a different activity which keeps them together as a team while being busy. They do a merry-go-round. This is completely different from the ‘village bank’. No proceeds from this activity goes to the village bank. However, it shares the same objective: to improve the living standards of every member and spare members from the harsh conditions of loan rendering from banks which to a large extent is disadvantageous due to the pressure they get to pay it back and the danger of losing property if there is default.

Members meet after every two weeks for a merry-go-round. Here the raise Ksh 10,000 which is usually shared by two members. They also get to know one another well as the meeting creates an opportunity for them to socialize.

The group has a 2 acre farm with maize and beans situated near Wangwaci dam. They were given to them by the Agriculture Office so that they can also help in conserving the dam. All proceeds from farm ends up in the village bank resources. “Whenever we cultivate this farm, we sell everything and top up the amount we have in the village bank. Last year we managed to harvest 41 bags of maize and added the money to our village bank resource,” said Kairu, “we are planning to plant tomatoes immediately we harvest maize.”

A new project is set to benefit members. They have started poultry farming. Each member is set to have a poultry house of 50 birds which is built using locally available materials and using the effort and skill of group members. The Divisional Livestock Production officers have intervened to help in capacity building for members while undertaking the project. Group member is only expected to buy few materials like nails and iron sheets that are not locally available. The rest of the work will be undertaken by the group.

Indeed the loan default and harassment from conventional banks provoked local empowerment from the otherwise arid lands of Laikipia.

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