We embarked on our journey at exactly 9 am on a hot Wednesday morning in March 2020 to Kipkeigei village in Sigor ward Chepalungu sub-county Bomet County. On arrival, we immediately spot a group of women neatly seated under an indigenous tree with a spreading canopy a quick count would place the number to about 25. They are dressed in colourful African fabrics and are excitedly having conversations while sipping Murski (a traditional drink common in the Kalenjin community). On spotting us they rise to their feet with songs and jubilations to welcome us. We were informed that this was the Kipkeigei visionary group.
The Kipkeigei visionary group is located along the Mara river area and is supported by the SEMA Project. This project which is funded by European Union and implemented by Vi agroforestry through a partner organization, Fintea Growers Co-operative Union Ltd (Fintea), has supported the formation of the groups to enhance the capacity of the women and men through different trainings that have helped them be independent and improve their livelihoods while conserving and contributing to the conservation of the Mara river and other water sources within the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem. It is one of the 6 groups that have been formed and supports 28 women, youth and men in the area.
Before, the women were not mobilized into any group as they used to engage in personal activities. For example, they would keep poultry but with less knowledge on taking care of them, and when a disease strikes they would lose most or all of them and suffer great economic losses. Currently, the savings and loan groups provide- them with an option for mobilizing, saving and loaning money which they invest in various on-farm enterprises. Additionally, they have been provided with training on poultry management; housing, vaccination, and feeding. They have also been trained on sustainable agricultural practices and the importance of planting different tree species which they now are able to get trees products such as firewood and fodder which helps reduce the pressure and over-reliance on the Mara river riparian zones. Previously, women participation in conservation of resources and leadership had also been very low but after conducting gender training, women are now taking up bigger roles like elective positions.
We ventured to learn out from them how the table banking was working for them and what guides them; Table banking allows them to save money and loan each other, they meet every Friday. Each member contributes 70Ksh, from which ksh20 is saved as social fund to cushion them against any future uncertainties and Ksh50 lend out as loans to members. They take the loan for two weeks and return with an interest of 10%. They have set up rules for fining any member who fails to repay the loan within the expected period. They currently have Ksh30,000 which is an equivalent of 300usd in their kitty. Then they use the loan to assist them accomplish various projects. Table banking has empowered the women to take up more initiatives and gave them a voice to participate in more activities like tree planting, they use part of the money they have saved to purchase trees for each member, which they plant when they meet. The table banking also supports their poultry enterprise, through a merry go round for chicks. Currently, they have done 2 cycles of 5 and 10 chicks respectively for each member and are now they are in the third cycle of buying 15 chicks for members meaning every member has a minimum of 15 hens per member currently.
The group has a bigger vision, on how they plan on building poultry houses so they can increase and maximize on their profits, they have already started on this and every member contributes 600/= every 2 weeks to purchase iron sheets to support construct poultry houses. They also plan on venturing in bee-keeping and dairy keeping.
What’s amazing and unique is that the visionary women group was not given a startup capital for the savings group but they were trained on financial literacy after which they organised themselves together and now they have something to proudly show as they shared their successful journey with table banking and planting trees to conserve the environment.
Under the SEMA, the plan is to further equip the women with business skills and sustainable practices to increase their knowledge on the ecosystem conservation, venture in profitable enterprises from which they invest and eventually enhance their livelihoods. and. The women in Bomet are learning day by day to jointly accumulate savings and this is what SEMA is about – enabling – dependent communities to improve their capital and improve their livelihoods while conserving the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem.
The Project is funded by the European Union.