Mutual support for microentrepreneurs
In a nutshell
The effects of climate change and rapid population growth increase food insecurity and environmental degradation. Both have hit the county of Kitui in southeastern Kenya particularly hard. The county’s poverty rate is about 60% (versus 45% nationally), and only 39% of its adult population is engaged in paid work (versus 49% nationally). Poor families in Kitui often spend 40% to 60% of their income on food, so even small fluctuations in food prices can have a large impact on their well-being.
Compounding these problems, 87% of household income in Kitui comes from farming – usually small-scale and rain-fed – rather than formal employment, leaving residents particularly vulnerable to environmental degradation and natural catastrophes such as droughts. Also, rapid population growth puts enormous pressure on natural resources such as water and land. With each generation Kitui’s already scarce arable farmland is divided among more people, resulting in overexploitation and declining productivity.
Hand in Hand International (HiH) combines four components to help Kitui’s farmers increase their income:
- Self-help groups: HiH organises self-help groups of about 20 people each whose members, typically women, support each other and save and learn together at weekly meetings. Every member is required to contribute to a savings fund for the group.
- Business training: HiH teaches group members to develop ideas for small businesses, or ways to enhance existing businesses, with the help of training modules on subjects such as basic bookkeeping, business development and marketing.
- Access to credit: The group savings funds finance most new HiH businesses. When members need more financing, they can borrow within their self-help group. HiH trains them in credit management and provides access to microloans.
- Links to larger markets: HiH helps group members with established businesses compete and thrive by finding larger markets for their goods and services, sourcing cheaper supplies and improving their branding, packaging and more.
In this project, HiH will also contribute to environmental resilience by encouraging the adoption of green farming, climate smart business techniques and eco-enterprises.
Goals and Impact
The project’s overall objective was to boost the long-term economic resilience of 8 400 impoverished people in Kitui. Specifically, as of December 2019 (original targets in parentheses):
- 2 563 people (2 400) had been mobilised into self-help groups and trained to run them
- 1 893 (1 700) micro-enterprises had been started or enhanced
- 1 645 (500) green micro-enterprises had been started or enhanced
- 655 (400) micro-enterprises had experienced demonstrably improved market linkages and competitiveness