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The importance of financial products and services in Kenya

Examining the tomatoes growing in Rael's greenhouse, an enterprising borrower from Bungoma

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.

Google Map pinpointing all the locations (in blue) for the BV visit. Kenyenya is the only location not marked on the map. It is situated south of Kisii and Bomet.

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.

Solar lamps are part of the Green Products offered to borrowers by Juhudi Kilimo

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.

Mary, a borrower in Kitale with her dairy cow

2. Training is provided to farmers on financial literacy, business management and farming technology.

Rael, a borrower from Bungoma, uses her solar lamp to read

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.

George, a borrower from Kitale, in his shop from which he sells household items and Agrovet products

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.

Hamida, a borrower from Nyahururu, grows maize which is a staple food for Kenyan households

Having witnessed the work being done on the ground, I have a new-found respect for both Kiva and Juhudi Kilimo.

Muddy Terrain during the rainy season, means it is impossible to use a car

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.

Boda Boda motorbikes are the most common form of transportation in rural parts of Kenya

This experience helped me address a lingering question in my mind, can Kiva really make a difference?

Boda Boda

The answer was an overwhelming YES. It can and it does!

Through Kiva, Michael, is one such example of a farmer who has been able to educate his children and improve his household income

You can also be a part of the Kiva narrative and ensure it continues doing great work in Kenya, by lending to farmers receiving loans through Juhudi Kilimo.

About the author

Yusra Akif

Yusra is a qualified lawyer and an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya. She has experience working in multiple jurisdictions, including London, Nairobi, and Dubai. Yusra worked for 5 years in the corporate department of a leading law firm in Kenya, with a brief stint in Islamic Finance at a law firm in Dubai. She is the co-founder of a community-based organisation and member of a charitable trust which work towards empowering youth in urban and rural Kenya. She has advised a wide array of local and international NGOs and social enterprises on set-up and regulatory matters. She has always been interested in projects that are innovative, practical and use sustainable means to break the cycle of poverty. This interest motivated her to pursue her master’s degree in Development Studies from SOAS. Her master’s dissertation focused on the social impact sector in Kenya and analyzed whether it is an alternative to aid or a fashionable trend. She is passionate about the social impact sector and is driven by her desire to use her legal knowledge, transferable skills and development background towards making an impact. She is an avid reader and enjoys playing outdoor sports.