As a Kiva fellow, I got the opportunity to work with two organisations that have always fascinated me with the kind of work they do. The first being Kiva and the second, Juhudi Kilimo, a for-profit social enterprise and microfinance institution in Kenya.
I have lived in Kenya for several years, but prior to the Kiva Fellows Program, I have never travelled as extensively or interacted with local farmers as much as I have during this fellowship. Now, I have gained a better understanding of their farming techniques and daily needs.
Over a period of 9 days, I travelled across Kenya covering the western, central and Mt. Kenya regions. The borrower verification exercise (the process of monitoring and confirming the impact of Kiva and its Field Partners) took place in the towns of Bomet, Kisii, Kenyenya, Bungoma, Kitale, Nyahururu and Nkubu.
I got to see first-hand the manner in which farmers at the grassroots level use some of the products offered by Juhudi Kilimo.
1. Asset Financing, Juhudi Kilimo purchases an asset such as a dairy cow or solar lamp for the farmer.
This method ensures the funds are not diverted for other purposes, and it works well since the asset enables the farmers to generate income while reducing risk as the purchased asset acts as collateral against the loan granted. The farmer then pays back the amount it cost to purchase the asset in easy monthly installments.
2. Training is provided to farmers on financial literacy, business management and farming technology.
The trainings provided by Juhudi Kilimo are an aspect the clients really appreciate. They have been able to see the results in the form of efficiency, increased yields and on a personal level, through the development of a culture of saving, which has allowed them to plan for their future.
3. Insurance is inclusive of premiums and vaccinations (such as East Coast fever Vaccination). This sort of protection cover is beneficial to the farmers, without it they may not have been able to protect their assets.
Having witnessed the work being done on the ground, I have a new-found respect for both Kiva and Juhudi Kilimo.
They have the passion and desire to reach clients living in the most remote areas regardless of distance, language and weather. All this effort is to ensure that there is financial inclusion and to create a positive impact in the lives of communities.
This experience helped me address a lingering question in my mind, can Kiva really make a difference?
The answer was an overwhelming YES. It can and it does!