Staying Busy in Senegal


Serigne Mbacké Guèye is a young sheep farmer from Sema, a village in Senegal. Serigne has raised sheep since he was a small child, and has grown quite fond of the profession. His sheep are especially popular during certain Muslim feasts. Serigne originally wanted to purchase 20 sheep, some feed, veterinary services, and a shepard to watch over his flock while he works in Dakar. His Zidisha loan has allowed him to buy the additional sheep and pay for the other related costs. In addition to paying for his farming related activities, Serigne was able to invest in a street boutique! While he was is in Dakar our Client Relationship Intern Sam Gant had a chance to meet up with Serigne. Below you can read what Sam wrote about their meeting.

The Mosque where Serigne works part-time.

Dear Lenders,

My name is Sam Gant and I’m one of the Client Relationship Managers active in Senegal right now. Today I met with Serigne at the mosque where he works in the genteel Point E neighborhood, and in only a few hours received a dizzying and informative tour of the Mosque, Serigne’s home, and the neighborhood in general. Serigne remains engaged in a diversity of industries–he primarily divides his time between doing upkeep work at the mosque and working at his store Parapluies Mondiales in the HLM market. Although he continues to buy food for his sheep he has stopped expanding the flock that his family maintains in the village. 

He explained that business has been slow following the tumultuous elections, and he expects that he will be able to maximize his loan once the commercial climate improves. He anticipates a significant financial boost in the fall as clients begin buying sheep for a number of upcoming festivals, but for the time being the flocks need time to mature. He was very appreciative towards the Zidisha lenders and hopes to keep you apprised of future developments. 

-Sam Gant

Aging Well in Kenya

David and his mother

Meet David Kamau, a Zidisha borrower from the Nakuru region of Kenya. David has several ways he earns a living. Besides working at a local school, David also has several animals that he rears. David used his Zidisha loan to purchase several dairy goats and build a structure to house his animals. David, and his mother, recently met with Achintya Rai. Read about their encounter in Achintya’s own words below:


My name is Achintya Rai and I am the new Kenya Client Relationship Manager for Zidisha.

I visited David Kamau on the 31st of Jan. Baba Joshua (as he is popularly known) is obviously one of the most popular Zidisha clients. If one were to believe his stories, he is quite ancient. But he doesn’t look a day older than 40. I asked around and the general opinion is that he is 70. I was thinking what I wouldn’t give to be as fit as him when I’m 70. Then I met his mother, who is 99. She was not only quite active (I once saw her doing the 7 km uphill trek from Mitimingi to Mugaa, from my perch behind a bike taxi) but had perfect hearing and sight.

Baba Joshua explained the science of cow-rearing to me- at what age they should be bought, at what they should be sold, how many generations further can they be interbred etc. He also explained to me how he invested his Zidisha loan and later bought a cow. His job at the Mugaa Secondary School not only gives him a stable salary, but also gives him special privileges like access to the school grounds for grazing his cows. He doesn’t have to take his cows to long distances for grazing unlike other farmers and that saves him a lot of time to look after his other animals. 

With his next loan he wants to buy maze from farmers in the crop season and store it to sell it later when the prices go up and traders from the town come looking for more produce.

His present income appears quite sufficient to pay back his loans. He has indigenous as well as German goats (which, I feel, aren’t quite as pretty as the local ones, but he was so proud of them I had to click a few pictures), chickens and now 3 cows. Like very many other Zidisha clients I have met, Baba Joshua also feels a sense of ownership for the company and also a sense of pride to be associated with Zidisha. And quite thankful to Zidisha too. 

Meeting a Visionary

Wanjira Ngure is a Zidisha borrower from Kianjoya, Kenya. Wanjira is married to a teacher, together they have one child, Gladys. Mrs. Ngure used to work for a HIV/AIDS group were she analyzed data. Since 2010, Wanjira has been running a small show near a shopping center.

Mrs. Ngure used her Zidisha loan to purchase an irrigation system to help her grow produce on her family’s 2.5 acres of land to put up for sale at her shop. Mrs. Ngure recognized the need for fresh produce as a good business opportunity because most of the areas produce are shipped in from far away, and not usually fresh by the time of arrival!

Our in-country Client Relationship Manager Achintya Rai recently met with Mrs. Ngure and her family. Read about his visit below:

Hello lenders,

My name is Achintya Rai and I am Zidisha’s new Kenya Client Relationship Manager.
This Sunday (5th Feb 2012), I went to the village of Kianjoya to visit Rahab Wanjira. Rahab’s husband James Ngure is a teacher in Mugaa Secondary School, where I am putting up. When I visited their home I met James in his work clothes, tending to his farm. He was the one who explained the business and its functioning to me.

If I were to use one word to describe James, I’d call him no less than a ‘visionary’. There are certain people who have that spark that employment advertisements profess to look for. I feel very strongly that James has that spark of brilliance. The things he is doing with the resources he has at this remote location are remarkable.

James has been working in the school for around 8 years. 4 years ago he decided to settle near here and bought this piece of land in Kianjoya. He did not know what else to do with the land so he and Rahab farmed it like everyone else to grow crops typical to here. Rahab also bought a shop in Mitimingi, which she used to take care of. They took their first Zidisha loan to stock this shop.

A year ago, James and Rahab attended a seminar in Naivasha. That is where they got the idea of constructing a green house and using drip farming to irrigate the crops. A green house kit being sold at the seminar cost around 210,000 Kenyan Shillings. James investigated further after returning and was able to construct his first green house (15m x 8m) in around 50,000 shillings. They sold their shop in Mitimingi to arrange for this money. 

The returns from the first green house were so tremendous (James claims that a tomato crop inside the green house gives FIFTY TIMES more returns than a tomato crop the same size outside the green house) that they have now decided to gradually bring their whole farm under a green house. They used their second Zidisha loan to increase the acreage under greenhouse and to buy a drip irrigation kit. Now they have three green houses, all using drip irrigation and all made from local materials (polythene/plastic sheeting and local wood logs).

James has dug two tanks in the farm to collect rainwater. He directs water flowing on the road into his farm to collect it into these tanks, which he uses to drip-irrigate his crops for the whole year.

His future plans include lining his tanks with ‘dam liner’, which is a plastic sheet that prevents water from being absorbed by the soil.

When one is in the presence of wisdom, one tends to test his own (perhaps not everyone, just men)- so I asked him that why didn’t he try keeping fish in his tanks to supplement his income. He nodded solemnly and said it was a good idea (I am sure he was smiling in his heart, but is too big a man to smile on my face). 

I also met Rahab and James’ little daughter Gladys, who didn’t smile at me till the very end, when I pulled her cheeks.

Mugaa Village, Kenya
7th Feb 2012 

Chicks and Computers.

Moses Mwangi is a college educated gentlemen living in Ongata Rongai, Kenya. Moses earned his degree in networking and repair maintenance. He is quite skilled with computers and programming. Moses runs a poultry business raising chickens for resale. Moses started his business because he identified a consumer trend that is moving away from red meat.

Recently Moses met with our in country Client Relationship Manager Achintya Rai. Here is what Achintya said about their recent encounter:

Hello lenders,

My name is Achintya Rai and I am Zidisha’s current client relationship intern for Kenya. I recently met Moses Mwangi at his home and had the chance to see his poultry business and talk to him and his mother Esther Kimemia.

Moses went to college after finishing his schooling to do a diploma in networking and repair maintenance and is a skilled computer technician. He is an expert in repair and maintenance of computers and is also well versed with programming. Apart from looking after his poultry business, he also works as a part time technician in the Multimedia University nearby and also helps in the business of his friend and another Zidisha client Samuel Njoroge. 

Moses used his Zidisha loan to buy one day old chicks. These were 5 days old when I visited him and were very cute to look at. I think there were about 70 of them. They had just started changing color from yellow and each had a small white spot.

The poultry business is mostly taken care of by Moses’ mother Esther who is one of the wittiest persons I have met in Kenya. She kept coming up with one-liners the whole time I was there. The first thing she did after shaking hands with me was chastising Moses for not offering me water. When I asked Moses how old he was, he turned to Esther who remarked- “how would I know?” When I asked Moses if he had any plans to get married, he said “soon” and Esther added “but not tomorrow!”

With the next loan they plan to buy rabbits. Esther told me that there are many breeds of rabbits available in the market but the ones she will buy will be the largest ones because she likes “big big things”.

Moses says that he’s a farmer at heart and will buy a shamba (farm) as soon as he can. His immediate plan is to start his own repair business, which he plans to begin within a few months. While walking back I asked him why doesn’t he start a small hardware training school. He could provide short-term training to other students, who would PAY HIM to work in his shop. This made him laugh and he said he’s seriously going to consider the idea.

I had a very interesting time with Moses and Esther and I wish them the best for their future (which I have no doubt will be great, because that’s how it always is for people with such positive outlooks to life)

22nd March 2012
Nairobi, Kenya

Photographs & Farmers

To keep interest rates low for borrowers, Zidisha eliminates the middleman and relies on hardworking volunteers and interns. To find out about opening positions, click here. Our Client Relationship Interns work diligently to connect with borrowers and bring lenders up-to-date about them. Here are more posts from Achintya in Kenya:

Andrew Mbugua 
I visited the business premises of Andrew Chege Mbugua.
Andrew runs the business of instant pictures. He has a desktop computer, a digital camera, a printer and also a small photocopying machine. Most of his clients come to him to get instant passport sized photographs, which they had to get from Nakuru earlier. Andrew’s printer cannot print beyond small sized photographs and he feels that there is a potential demand in Kiptangwanyi and nearby areas for larger photographs (family photographs for example)

He wants to invest the loan money in either buying a bigger printer, or replacing the old one before it breaks down (last time it broke down, it was three months before he could get a new one). He also wants to buy what he calls a “state of the art” camera. This would cost him 20,000 to 25,000 shillings. Always a businessman, Andrew offered to exchange his camera with mine (which has lesser megapixels than his, but is green and sits in a red cover which perhaps made him think it was better than his). I said “sure, as soon as you get your state of the art camera”. There was general laughter at this (there were many people who had collected to watch the discussion/interview)

Of all the people I have met here, Andrew is the first one who has been to college (even though I must add that the general level of education in rural Kenya is exceptionally good). His wife is a teacher. He wants his kids to study even further than him and do well in their lives.

As a last note I’d like to add that it is hard to believe that Andrew is 35 and has 2 kids. He doesn’t look a day beyond 25 (when I told him this, he was quite delighted-I guess a little vanity finds us all some time or the other) 

To read more about Andrew, check out his profile page!   

Paul Ngugi   

Two things I observed about Paul- first, Paul is truly ambitious (this seems true for many Zidisha clients). He wants to go places, and looking at his energy (he starts his day at 6 in the morning, working on his piece of land till noon, whereafter he takes care of his shop, while also finding time to graze his animals, visit Miti-Mingi or Nakuru to buy supplies and act as a de facto Zidisha coordinator), I have no doubt he will.

Second- Paul has practical, doable ideas about how he wants to go there. He used his Zidisha loans for his shop and to buy large quantities of grains from farmers, which he sells to traders from the towns. He was also able to buy a piece of land and construct rooms, which he now rents. 

His plan now is to make a cattle-shed where he can provide food to his animals in the enclosure, without the hassle of taking them grazing. He wants to use his next Zidisha loan to buy ‘high quality’ cows. Not speculating and trying to exploit season shifts in grain prices, he appears to have solid plans based on data. For example, he plans to sell the milk to the Milk Cooperatives who pay a better price (around 4 shillings more per liter) and also guarantee purchase.

I was able to meet his three sons, his mother (who is also a Zidisha client), his aunt and his two donkeys (Toto and Kijana). Everyone smiled for the camera (except the two donkeys, who turned their faces away in disdain at human frivolities) 

To read comments from Paul and older reports from interns, head over to his page!