Photo: ACDI VOCA
The 30 female entrepreneurs who make up the Kulmis Savings and Credit Cooperative (SACCO) in Northern Kenya’s Wajir County were at a loss when drought and the coronavirus pandemic struck. Their losses were exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which increased the price of commodities and made it hard for them to run their small-scale businesses selling livestock, grains, vegetables, and other consumer items.
The SACCO would contribute USD 300 monthly, loaned out to members with a 10-month repayment period at no interest, according to the Sharia law. But the external challenges made the monthly contributions irregular and affected loan repayments. Also, the SACCO had little knowledge of cooperative governance and management and used a manual system to update member records. This was time-consuming and prone to errors.
The Feed the Future Kenya Livestock Market Systems Activity, implemented by ACDI VOCA with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development, assisted the group in three ways: (1) economic stimulus, (2) cooperative training, and (3) linkage to financial institutions. The Activity granted each member of the SACCO USD 300 through a COVID-19 stimulus package. With the cash, each member bought more stock and revamped their businesses.
“Our businesses were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the USAID stimulus program to our members, we withstood challenges such as price fluctuation,” said Isha Abdikadir, a credit officer for Kulmis SACCO
Photo: ACDI VOCA
In collaboration with the Wajir County Government Department of Cooperatives, the Activity facilitated tailored training for the SACCO members in different learning areas, including cooperative formation, governance, management, operations, financing, and Islamic financing. In addition, USAID funding supported the SACCO in purchasing computers and digitizing their systems. Together with the cooperative department, the Activity also organized an “open day” for cooperatives. This created business-to-consumer and business-to-business interactions for members of Kulmis SACCO, creating awareness of their products and services to the public.
“Through USAID support, we have gained knowledge and skills in managing our financial resources, including proper documentation and loans and savings.” – ISHA ABDIKADIR
With adequate training on Sharia-compliant products, the Activity further linked Kulmis SACCO to two financial institutions, First Community Bank and National Amanah Bank. The linkage helped the SACCO members take up loan facilities and expand their businesses.
As a result of USAID support, Kulmis SACCO has saved USD 18,000 and disbursed loans of USD 36,000. Many of the members use the loans to expand their businesses or cover their children’s education fees. In addition, the SACCO has an improved management system, including efficiency in loan tracking as a result of a digitized system. Now the SACCO can actualize plans to grow its membership and become a micro-finance institution.
Overall, the Activity has helped 15,496 people in Northern Kenya participate in group-based savings, micro-finance, or lending programs. The cooperatives serve as platforms for marketing livestock and livestock products and as channels for disseminating market information and financial services.
This article was originally published by ACDI VOCA.