“Some courses come from the heart”

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By Traci Yoshiyama

“I’m very hardworking,” says Jane Wambui Kabugo without a tinge of boastfulness, but rather a sense of pride. Rightfully so. Jane is 27 years old and already a successful businesswoman, not to mention a mother of two. Jane and her husband own a kinyozi (salon) and a produce stall in the little rural village of Mitimingi, Kenya. As Jane and I speak from her produce stall, we peer across the street at the kinyozi where we can see her husband cutting the hair of a young gentleman. In another minute, Jane gets a customer wanting to buy bananas, evidence that their two businesses are thriving.

The creation of her family’s kinyozi was possible because of Zidisha. Through her first loan of $546, Jane was able to rent a space, buy all the necessary machinery (i.e. shavers, razors), stock her store with hair products and shoes, and even buy two batteries that enable her shop to stay open during the frequent power outages.

While her husband is in charge of styling the men, Jane takes care of the children’s haircuts when not working at her produce stall. We have all heard of children being fearful of haircuts, with scissors too close for comfort and strange noises and smells permeating the air. Jane gestures towards her kind and understanding face, implying this is the answer to the children’s haircut jitters. Although both Jane and her husband have no formal training in barbering, she explains to me that “some courses come from the heart.”

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I had found Jane at her produce stall, where she sells vegetables and fruits that she grows mostly on her own farm. She was dressed in smart slacks and a white t-shirt and greeted me with a firm handshake (this I found to be true for all women here – their handshakes are always full-bodied and firm – showing confidence and also warmth).  Jane appears to be quite enterprising. She, like most Kenyans, has a very strong desire to improve her lot and works really hard to make sure she and her family have the best that is possible.

Jane used the Zidisha loan and some of her own money to buy a good breed of cow. The cow cost her around $750, but gives around 20 liters of milk per day (at peak capacity), which translates to a monthly revenue of around $180 from the cow. She spends about $60 per month on the cow’s feed and veterinary care, and the remaining $120 per month are her profit.

She has sent her two sons to boarding schools because she feels the quality of education is much better there. She told me that she pays annual tuition of $630 for one of her sons and $350 for the other. This appears quite steep to me, but she wants to make sure her children get the best education and will not compromise on this. She told me she wants one of the sons to be a lawyer and the other to be a doctor. I couldn’t help feeling admiration for her.

Upon my departure, Jane reaches for a banana, the ripest of the bunch, and gives it to me as a gift. Refusing to take my money, she makes me promise to visit again, even extending an invitation to her home. As I make my descent home, I think about Mitimingi, one of the smallest villages I have seen in Kenya, but filled with people possessing the biggest of hearts.

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This story was originally posted by Traci Yoshiyama, volunteer Kenya Client Relationship Manager, in July 2012.  Since then, Ms. Kabugo has successfully repaid her second loan and has raised a third loan to invest in storage of locally harvested corn and beans, improving food security while adding another stream of revenue to her household.  You may read more about Ms. Kabuto in her Zidisha profile page.

We couldn’t resist sharing this comment. It’s wonderful that this loan ultimately helped Ms. Wandera access better vision!

“Dear lenders, I am short of words, the smiles in the eyes of my siblings and family members is untold, they are so grateful. I am so overjoyed because my business is registering a large number of customers daily and am more than grateful to the lenders. With the profit i got from the business I was able to go for an eye checkup and got my eyes checked and I was able to buy spectacles. The loan has changed my life for the better and I would stop at nothing to spread the good news and to bring trustworthy borrowers to Zidisha. Zidisha lenders, you are the best, am very very grateful and in summary of my feeling of joy I say thank you so very much.”

– Posted by Cynthia Wandera in Nairobi, Kenya on 25 April 2014

Easter greetings from all of us

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Hi lenders, The revenue for my business has increased by approximately 20% and also many local people have registered for [clothing production] training and currently I am working with 2 shifts in a day but still there many people interested in training so am planning to rent a more spacious room and purchase more [sewing] machines to accommodate more people… This new plan will put my business into the next level and I will empower more people as I economically empower myself. I wish all the Zidisha community members a happy Easter holiday !

Posted by Winfred Wangechi in Kahawa Wendani, Kenya

I salute all members of Zidisha and all the lenders, you have put a smile on lots of people’s faces, I wish you a blessed week and glory Easter… be well brothers and sisters…

Posted by Derrick Vusala in Nakuru, Kenya

 

Wendneso, I sincerely support your project and I wish you can fund it. I do it from the bottom of my heart. Happy Easter.

Posted at the profile of Wendneso KABORE by Pierfausto in Rome, Italy

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Hi my esteemed lenders, hope you are having a good Easter holiday.  On this side business is fair.  How are things over on those sides of this small world?

Posted by Rael Chepkurui in Kaptembwa, Kenya

 

Dear Lenders, I am so grateful for your support and I am now faring excellently. I managed to introduce new attractive packaging materials for the rice supply business and have great hopes in penetrating to new and bigger markets. I have now searched for more supply tenders in many supermarkets and hotels and believe they will give a positive feedback… Thank you and have a wonderful EASTER HOLIDAY.

Posted by Joseph Wokabi in Juja-kalimoni, Kenya

 

Hi Judith. I am 8 years old and my mom is helping me do this. I like helping people so I am using money from my allowance. I like gardens and I hope you make a good one. Onions stink but they taste good. Ha ha! Good luck.

Posted at the profile of JUDITH CHEPKOSGEI by Dragonboy in Waterloo, Canada

Hi Zidisha lenders its with hope that you will help me reach my dreams, you’re good people and with your help I’ll do good in my business… together we can make a change…….happy EASTER,….

Posted by HARRISON GANGAYA in Barnabas, Kenya

Spotlight on Theresia Kabiti, Kenya

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The laughter of children is the first sound I hear as I enter the grounds of Terrian Academy. A smile is brought to my face as I see a group of forty students singing songs and playing games with their teacher on the open field in front of their classroom. The walls of each class are decorated with brightly colored homemade posters and pictures, while the desks are filled with children deep in concentration as their teacher passionately provides instruction. After months of renovation, Terrian Academy is now in session!

Skeptics of microfinance claim there is no evidence of poverty alleviation beyond the anecdotal, and that although individual lives may benefit, impact on a larger scale is yet to be proven. Founder, principal, and teacher of Terrian Academy, Theresia Kabiti provides a sound argument to the contrary, for she has leveraged Zidisha loans to provide educational opportunities to an entire community in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. The long-term effects of such access are immeasurable, as education is one of the most powerful tools for economic growth. Theresia Kabiti provides a learning environment for those with otherwise little means, offering lower costs and comparable teaching quality to that of private schools in Kenya. 

Image Theresia Kabiti and students

Theresia used to enjoy a comfortable job as a well-paid teacher in a private school for privileged children. Every morning on her way to work, she would pass by less fortunate children in her own community who were not in school at all because their parents could not afford the fees. Most of these parents worked as laborers on daily wages of just a few dollars per day. Theresia decided to leave her job to start a school to facilitate education among the poor. 

While the other schools in the area charge over $20 per month, Terrian Academy charges just $6 per month, a cost accessible even to the most budget-constrained households.  In the beginning, Theresia had to go door to door to tell people about her school, and her first class had just five students. Soon, though, word spread among the parents in the neighborhood about the affordable new school.  Demand grew to the point where Theresia was forced to turn children away due to lack of classroom capacity.

I had first visited Theresia as her school was still being constructed. Due to heavy rains in Githunguri, the classrooms of the original Terrian Academy flooded and students were moved to a nearby abandoned building. With her first Zidisha loan of $996, she was able to renovate the school to avoid damage from future flooding, increasing the school’s enrollment to 80 students.

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The original Terrian Academy in 2012, before Zidisha lenders funded windows and doors

ImageTerrian Academy students at naptime, before a Zidisha loan funded paving of the classroom floors

Theresia used her second Zidisha loan to expand her school’s capacity further by adding three classrooms.  This allowed her to add classes up to third grade, and increase her student number to 120.  Her third and current loan was used to add windows and doors to the school, and to cement the floors of the classrooms.

Theresia’s youngest daughter is a student at Terrian school as well. When I asked her if her daughter gets any preferential treatment by being the principal’s daughter, she laughed and said no. The little girl wants to be an airplane pilot and Theresia hopes to be able, with the help of revenue earned from investments in the school’s growth that will be made possible through Zidisha loans, to afford the high aviation college fees.

To learn more, check out Theresia Kabiti’s Zidisha profile page.

ImageLetter written by a fourth grade student at Terrian Academy

This article is based on posts by Traci Yoshiyama and Achintya Rai, updated by Julia Kurnia.

Interest rates for lenders now capped at 5% flat / 10% APR

Today we reduced the maximum interest Zidisha borrowers may offer to lenders to no more than 5% flat, or approximately 10% APR.

This means that borrowers will now pay a maximum of 10% flat / 20% APR inclusive of a 5% flat service fee paid to Zidisha.  (This does not include a $12 lifetime membership fee, which is paid once when a borrower first joins Zidisha.)

Previously, we permitted borrowers to offer interest of up to 25% flat (approximately 50% APR).  (In practice, the higher rates were mostly offered for small short-term loans, resulting in total interest costs of only a few dollars.)  The intent was that allowing borrowers, especially newcomers who had not yet established a credit history or members who had low historical on-time repayment rates, to offer more interest to lenders would help loans that would otherwise go unfunded to attract financing.  The higher interest rates were also intended to allow lenders to recoup expected losses at a time when our loss rate was higher than it is today.

In practice, the higher interest rates do not seem to have resulted in higher levels of loan funding overall.  We believe the reason is that, while allowing higher interest improved the financial attraction of lending with Zidisha, it simultaneously weakened its humanitarian appeal.  The feedback we have been hearing from many of our lenders, supporters and the general public is that allowing such high interest rates undermined Zidisha’s unique value proposition: microlending at lower cost to borrowers than traditional microfinance organizations are able to offer sustainably.

In addition, credit risk at Zidisha has improved and become more predictable: the on-time repayment rate of first loan installments has roughly doubled over the past year.  As a result, we do not expect that interest rates of up to 25% flat / 50% APR are necessary to protect lenders from credit risk.

Finally, allowing high interest rates encouraged borrowers to differentiate themselves on the basis of financial returns alone.  We expect that reducing the maximum interest rate will strengthen the incentive for borrowers to instead differentiate themselves through memorable personal stories, good photos, frequent and meaningful dialogue with lenders and high on-time repayment rates.  This should improve the quality of the lending experience at Zidisha overall.

Our core mission is humanitarian, not profit-seeking.  There is no longer a strong reason to allow high interest rates to be offered at Zidisha, and the best way to stay true to that mission is to ensure that Zidisha remains a platform for philanthropy rather than financial profit.

Zidisha is the first direct P2P lending platform to bridge the international wealth divide.  To learn more, visit us at www.zidisha.org.

An Ageless Family Man

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By Lauren Rosenbaum and Julia Kurnia

Most people in Mugaa village call David Kamau “Baba Joshua” or “Wajoshua,” because in Kenya parents are known by the name of their first born child. Wajoshua has nine children, a number only slightly above average for a Kenyan family. As his parents’ oldest living son, he is responsible for taking on the family’s burdens, including caring for his parents as they grow old and raising his orphaned niece and nephew. He used to travel to his father’s house by foot, but when the old man’s health deteriorated Wajoshua moved his own house, carrying the roofing sheets and sticks that it had been made of to relocate his dwelling next to that of his parents.

In this area people live for a very long time, perhaps because they walk for miles and miles on hilly terrain daily and eat plenty of vegetables that they grow in their gardens. Wajoshua is 70, but he still seems as hardy and robust as a man in his thirties. His father died recently at the age of 118!

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David Kamau with his mother in early 2012

Wajoshua is employed as a gardener at the village school in Mugaa, Kenya.  He works hard to make sure that the school is running smoothly, which often requires heavy manual labor. The other day he was personally fixing one of the many atrocious roads that leads to the school, throwing heavy rocks out of the path and carrying bags of sand and gravel to replace them. I am continually amazed by how much energy he has to do these things.

I have been invited to Wajoshua’s house a number of times. The first time he showed me his goats and explained to me all of the measures he takes to care for them. He told me that the goats are better quality than typical African goats because they are able to produce milk and thus generate income without being used for meat. In order to obtain such animals, Wajoshua organized with a group of farmers to collectively breed the goats, rotating males and females among the group to avoid inbreeding. Wajoshua started with just one baby female, and then added a full-grown male and another baby male as well. To keep them healthy, he must pay for their food, salts, and medicine. He also feeds them fresh vegetables, like the kale he grows in his garden. Because the baby goat gets cold at night, Wajoshua brings him inside the house to sleep.

Wajoshua is a very social person and doesn’t think much of walking seven kilometers to see a friend. He also likes to invite people over to watch his television, which he powers with a solar battery – a common contraption in remote areas that do not have access to electricity. When I come to his house he always makes me mahindi choma (salty roasted maize), which is sort of like popcorn for Kenyan families. His kids watch the television with us, an exercise Wajoshua says helps them improve their English. After I leave they begin studying, using lamps powered by the solar battery. As the family values education, many of the children are at the top of their classes.

Wajoshua used his first Zidisha loan of $260 to purchase four more dairy goats, which he reared and one of them gave birth. He later sold them (save for the kid) and used the proceeds to buy a cow, whose milk is a source of daily cash for Wajoshua’s family. The cow recently gave birth and he now owns a calf.

With his second Zidisha loan of $469, Wajoshua bought a supply of maize and beans at harvest to resale during the lean season – improving food security and farmers’ incomes in Mugaa, while generating a net profit of $375.  He used that profit to purchase another heifer as an additional source of milk and income for his family.

Wajoshua invested his current loan of $943 in a larger supply of locally harvested beans.  He built a granary at his home to store the beans, and purchased a donkey to transport them from the farmers.  From there, he is selling the beans to to wholesalers from a nearby town.  He estimates that the $943 worth of beans will generate sales revenue of $1250, which he intends to use to purchase a stock of maize in time for that crop’s harvest season.

“The previous loans that have acquired from Zidisha have not only helped in improving our status as a family but have made my family an admiration in the society,” Wajoshua wrote. “Kudos to Zidisha team… Am very optimistic that all shall go well. Lucky me that Zidisha is my financial partner.”

You may read more in David Kamau’s loan profile page.