Day five of real impact in Kenya: Providing economic opportunity to rural communities

Community development investing |

Praxis’ Stella Tai travels to rural Kilifi County to see firsthand how Yehu’s savings and loans groups can help unbanked women gain opportunities

To conclude my trip across Kenya to see the on-the-ground realities of impact investing, I traveled to Mombasa. While in the Southeast of Kenya, I saw firsthand how local organizations are making a difference in the lives of local people through community development investing and microfinance.

Yehu microfinance logo
My last impact site visit was to Yehu, a microfinance institution on Kenya’s southeastern coast. Yehu is a word in the Miji Kenda language that means “ours,” demonstrating how the common people are the owners of the organization.

The organization provides access to capital, with an emphasis on renewable and clean energy and gender equity, with a heavy focus on reaching members of rural communities who may be unbanked, women and/or illiterate.

The organization was started in 2000 using a table banking model, where members of a group make weekly contributions to create a pool of money that they can then lend to group members. Yehu is supported by MEDA, an organization that Praxis and Everence Financial® has worked closely with in the past.

After flying to Mombasa, we drove about an hour into the countryside to Kilifi County to meet with three borrowers and to hear about how Yehu has changed their lives.

Three people standing outside
The first borrower, David, participates in a savings and lending group with five members. He has a 5-acre piece of land where he raises goats and cows and grows mangoes, oranges, corn, and coconuts.

David used the loan funds to invest in his farm and provide for his family. Before Yehu, it was difficult for him to access credit, but he is grateful that the loan officers travel to the remote area where he lives with the funds and technical assistance to help him and his neighbors.

Two people standing outside near a cow
The second borrower I met, Mariam, is a savvy business owner who participates in a women’s-only savings and loan group, where she was recently chosen as the leader. Mariam has a 4 ½-acre farm where she keeps six dairy cows and sells the milk.

In addition to the dairy farm, Mariam grows cashew nuts, coconuts and other produce both for sale and for her family. It was great to learn more from Mariam about how this group of women supports each other in their savings and loan association.

A group of people gathered outside in a Kenyan village
At the end of the day, I had the privilege of briefly visiting the Mudzo Women’s Only Savings and Loan group. In the local language, mudzo means “goodness” or “brilliance,” which I found to be a testament to the great work that Yehu does for the local community.

The group consists of 15 members who support each other as small-business owners. The group includes both new borrowers and returning borrowers.

While the loans might seem small to us, only around 30,000-60,000 Kenyan shillings – or $300-$600 – these loans are crucial to these women as they start and grow their businesses. The women in this group have businesses selling charcoal and fish, running grocery stands and owning beauty salons.

This was the last impact site that I visited while in Kenya. As I left the Mudzo Women’s Only Savings and Loan group, I found myself reflecting on the immense impact that even a small amount of money can make for the people I met while on my trip. These small loans don’t only spur innovation and productivity but also lead to increased opportunities for families and help to support societies most vulnerable.

Looking to learn more about Praxis Mutual Funds’ commitment to real impact? Download our 2021 Real Impact Report to learn about our seven distinct impact strategies that show how investments can support and contribute to the change we want to see in the world.


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Stella Tai, Stewardship Investing Impact and Analysis Manager | Praxis Mutual Funds

Author

Stella Tai
Stewardship Investing Impact and Analysis Manager

Community Development Investing

Discover how Praxis helps provide economic opportunity for disadvantaged individuals and communities around the world and learn more about our corporate initiatives to see how we make a difference.

 

Learn more about community development investing Download the Real Impact 2021 report