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:
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)
Our intern Achintya is currently in Kenya! This is one of his recent blog posts, titled “Second Week with Zidisha”:
It’s the end of the second week, so I’m back to write about the things that happened and things that I underwent this week. In the course of this discourse you’ll hear me talk about the shrill cow, about business upstream and downstream, about the panga, about pineapple Fanta, about three year old stalkers and about nyama choma and hungry masais, not necessarily in that order.
This week I visited the little village of Mitimingi nearby. I was fortunate to get a lift from the ex-counselor of this area, in whose 4-wheel drive car I had a luxurious journey down. The roads here being what they are, the ex-counselor spent one full minute laughing when I said that the drive was a punishment for his car, all the while shaking his head and repeating “punishment for the car”. I guess the concept of employing punishment on an inanimate object is a peculiar one. Inanimate by definition means lifeless, unresponsive and what’s the fun in punishing something that doesn’t respond? It’s like having Steven Seagal as your psychiatrist.
In Mitimingi, Baba Joshua proposed that we try Nyama Choma, which literally means Roast Meat. Metaphorically too that is exactly what it means. So, after some discussion on our appetites (there were three of us) I decide to buy a kilogram of goat meat. At the meat shop, the boy (he looked quite young, 18-19 maybe, but in these parts you can never tell the age of a person, just like you can never tell the expression on Steven Seagal’s face) took out this huge sword like curved knife to cut the meat. Now those who know me will be able to predict quite easily what I did at this point in our story. I asked her name. I mean the knife’s. Her name was “Panga”. So I asked where I could get one and Baba Joshua promised to get me one in Mugaa (which he did by the way, the same evening. Of course I followed up on and pestered him).
After about an hour, the Nyama Choma was ready. We sat down around it with a few chapatis and dug in. That’s when Baba Joshua told me about the Masais. The Masais slaughter a goat and then they Nyama its Choma (or Choma its Nyama- I always get confused which is roast and which is meat) and then 2 or 3 Masai warriors sit around, like us, with their own knives, unlike us, and finish the whole goat, very very unlike us. Either goat is the name of a fish or three means a larger number in Swahili. I mean three guys eating a goat, in one meal! Come-on! How much time do they spend in the loo each day?
The next day I walked to the village of Kiptangwanyi. I don’t know how far it is, but I walked for two hours, up and down hills, with rubble like roads. Paul my friend and comrade, instead of encouraging me kept telling me stories of Lauren, the first intern here in Kenya. He told me how she could run all the way up. While I barely crawled. He told me how she got up at 6 in the morning for a jog to Mitimingi. While I wake up at 8.30 and jog my memory to remember where I’d kept the tissue roll. But I smiled in my mind and thought “but can she do 200 pushups?” Actually, I can’t either, but so can’t Steven Seagal, and what’s good enough for Steven Seagal not to do is good enough for me not to do as well! But frankly, my respects to Lauren. That trek killed me and I bow to anyone who could do it easily.
On the way, we crossed this small river. It was a beautiful seasonal stream, with clear water and the cool smell of freshness around it. We crossed it at a place where the stones were big enough to jut out of the water. Paul told me that the water was good enough to drink. I was quite thirsty and shoved my hands in the water and was about to drink it when I saw 2 cows, 2 meters upstream from where I was, doing their business right in the middle of the stream. It was an awkward situation, with my hands full of water and Paul encouraging me- “drink, drink drink!” I excused myself by saying that I wasn’t thirsty, and then went on to extract my water bottle from my bag to have a drink. I consider myself an amateur Anthony Bourdain aspirant, but it’s one thing to try frog’s legs arrayed around a ball of aromatic rice or to relish the tongue, cheek and brain of a baby cow served with crunchy French baget or to suck the jelly out of a beautifully cooked and exotically served fish’s eye, but to drink water being graced by a cow’s holiness right in front of your eyes…
On the way back, we stopped at Paul’s shop. That’s when I tried pineapple Fanta for the first time in my life. My excuse- I was so thirsty I couldn’t think straight. No I’m just kidding. It was quite good. I never saw a pineapple soft drink in India. I never drank a soft drink in France. So this was my first encounter with the yellow concoction. The only bad thing about the drink was that it made me want to smoke. Because I never repress my urges (I’ve been told it’s bad for the child in you), I bought a cigarette (yes one cigarette and not one packet- you can do than in Kenya, just like in India) from Paul’s shop and went on to punish my lungs. It was a great feeling- Paul’s shop is at some height in Mugaa- to sit and look at the setting sun, with beautiful blue sky, dotted with small snow white clouds, cool breeze caressing my hair and skin and the smell of wood fire and food cooking in the air. I could see laughing people walking back with their cattle and women shopping at the little green grocers’. Old men sitting at the tea stall, sipping ‘chai’ with ‘mandazi’ and gossiping.
I felt at peace.
I felt one with the bloody universe!
The day after I decided to repeat the whole “one with the universe” experience and went for a walk up to Mugaa center. It was afternoon and Baba Joshua’s cow Kairu (which literally means ‘black’, guess why!) was near the gate of the school. Now Kairu is exceptionally fond of her calf. She is very particular about the time at which the calf should be fed. Like all mothers she becomes impatient when her child has to wait. But unlike many mothers, Kairu does not sing well. In fact, I sometimes suspect that Kairu has elephant genes. She is black (surprise!) and big and has large ears. But most important, she shrieks like a banshee from Arabian Nights who’s in labor. No wonder I kept asking everyone if there were any elephants around. While all the time it was Kairu talking.
That day she saw me walking towards the gate and thinking that I’m Baba Joshua (yes we do look quite alike, despite the vast differences in our our heights, colors, faces, hairstyles and ages) started howling her miserable entreaties. The whole situation was sad, I mean the mother yearning for her child, but her voice is so shrieky I couldn’t stop myself from laughing. Kairu took offence and I had to walk rather fast to get out.
Mugaa primary school had just closed and I came across a hoard of three year olds outside the gate. After answering a hundred ‘how are you’s, I started walking up, but the kids couldn’t get enough of me. They followed me, laughed at me, called me names and scared the daylight out of me. Children tend to depersonalize the object of their mirth. Having seen countless ‘clown bashing in birthday parties’ videos on TV, I kept my fingers crossed and breath held. Only after I entered a teashop did I let my guard down (which, in my case, was palms behind to stop any kicks to my posterior). Damn the universe. I will feel one in my room.
There were other things that happened, other interesting people I met, other adventures I suffered, like meeting the fascinated watchman, scaring the angry dog, sniffing the poisonous tomato and other such incidents. Later.
Read more of his blog here
Here are three more updates from Achintya, our intern in Kenya:
I visited Abraham Mwangi at his shop in Kiptangwanyi on Thursday (2nd Feb, 2012). Abraham was the first person in Kiptangwanyi to receive a Zidisha loan and he claims that all the other Zidisha borrowers in this area came though his reference (“all” may be an exaggeration, but I’m sure most lenders there came either through his reference or as a result
Abraham has 2 boys and one girl. Even though he himself has studied only till form two, he wants his kids to study further and perhaps go to college.
I took many pictures of Abraham and his pickup truck, after which he had some really nice things to say about Zidisha.
To read more, check out Abraham’s profile page here
Jackline Muthoni Waithaka
I went and met Jackline Muthoni Waithaka at her business premise on this Thursday (2nd Feb 2012). She has a small shop from where she sells packaged bread. She used the Zidisha loan to increase her stock (she offloaded around 860 packets of bread in front of me. When I asked her how long it’d take her to sell all these, she said “just one day”).
Jackline now wants to buy a motorbike so that she can supply to nearby areas. Right now she uses a bicycle to supply, but this limits her reach.
My one regret after meeting Jackline was that in my pursuit for getting a picture of her working, I did not help her in offloading the crates. I should have. In fact I would have, had I not had the blessed camera in my hands.
To read more about this entrepreneur, see her page here
I visited Jane Wambui at her premises to see her at work and to talk to her. I found her at her shop where she sells vegetables and fruits that she grows mostly on her own Shamba (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 hand-shakes 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.
She used the Zidisha loan and some of her own money to buy a good breed of cow. The cow cost her around 60,000 shillings (her loan was for 45,000 shillings), but gives around 20 liters of milk per day (at peak capacity), which translates to a revenue of around 15,000 shillings from the cow. She spends 5,000 on the cow and the remaining 10,000 shillings 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 paid the fee of 51,000 shillings for one of her sons and 28,000 shillings 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.
With her next loan she wants to buy an even better cow. This would cost around 120,000 Kenyan Shillings but would give 40-50 liters of milk per day. When I said bye to her, she offered me a banana, which was very nice and sweet of her.
On Thursday (2nd Feb 2012) I paid a visit to Stephen Maina in the little center called Kiptangwanyi around two hours’ walk away from the village I am staying at.
Stephen is a carpenter and he used his Zidisha loan to buy a lathe machine. He used to work earlier with a simple cutting machine, with which he could cut wood but couldn’t really give it any shape. With the lathe machine he is now able to make beds, tables, chair, doors and other wooden items on order.
His plan earlier was to invest some of the loan money to buy a carving machine, but he used it to buy materials instead. This proved wise because he has been receiving orders and keeping busy even without having the carving machine and will be able to pay back his loan easily. He will use his next Zidisha loan to buy a carving machine.
Stephen has 5 children. After his loan was disbursed, he found that the price of the machine he was planning to buy had gone down, so he used the remaining money to pay his children’s fees. His oldest son is in university, where he studies “computers or something to do with ICT” (He said ICT with such absolute certainty that I did not have the heart to ask him what it was). This son had studied in a public school and his performance was very good so Stephen has admitted another son into the same public school. He wants to educate his children and uses the extra income that the cheap Zidisha loan has made possible for him to fulfill this dream of his.
I wish him well and hope all his children go to the university and do well for themselves.
4th Feb 2012
Mugaa Village, Kenya