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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

Fund helps Rift Valley women in making socio-economic progress

NAKURU (Xinhua) -- Women in Kenya are making progress in improving their economic status with the help of Women Enterprise Fund (WEF), a unique financing system established in 2007 to benefit women considered as the marginalized group in the country.

The fund, anchored on the country’s agenda of empowering women to alleviate poverty in the households and catalyze the nation’s socioeconomic growth, is tailored to provide credit services to women organized in groups.

Star of the Lake Enterprises, constituting of women from Western Kenyan county of Homabay who have invested in agribusiness, is among the beneficiaries.

Their investment is in amaranth, a crop considered to be a weed in majority of the farming communities in Kenya.

But the women are processing it into multiple products that they could soon be exporting to countries in the East African region.

They make cakes, crisps and amapop from the amaranth.

They also involved in production of cookies from simsim, peanuts and fish.

Florence Musumba, the enterprises’ director, said a 1,000 U.S. dollar loan they received from the fund enabled them to buy an oven, which came as a big boost to their business.

"The oven cuts on the time we spend on producing the products which I must say is an advancement for us," Musumba said in an interview early this week.

Musumba said they are currently servicing the loan and are looking forward to more funds to equip a processing firm they are constructing at Homabay town.

The fund offers a minimum loan of 1,000 dollars, basically for the first time loanees.

They graduate to 2,000 dollars and 3,500 progressively. After which they receive 5,000 the maximum amount.

Those who have reached the peak become the eligible candidates for the bank loans as they are no longer qualified for either category of loan limits.

The loans are interest free, but they are charged an administrative fee of five percent and the groups are required to repay within 12 months.

Mumina Bonaya, WEF’s chairperson, said the affirmative fund addresses women’s disadvantage of accessing funds from the other conventional institutions.

She said 1.2 million women have benefited from the kitty since its inception, with a huge percentage of the money given out going into agribusinesses initiatives.

Significantly, the agricultural businesses have employed 400,000 people indirectly along the value chain, she added.

"We are structured in such a way that women can easily reach us in each and every constituency across the country," she said.

"150,000 of the businesses we have financed have survived beyond the period of three years.

"And there are more successful business we are funding."

The repayment rate also stands at 90 percent, a success which Bonaya attributed to their model of lending.

"We loan women within groups and we are not demanding for any collateral.

"We require the social protection security within the group, (whereby) we need guarantors who stand for each other," she explained.

Further, the process of repaying the loans has been made easier as they can utilize the mobile money transfer to make the monthly installments.

With the technology, the women can clear the loans from wherever they are without visiting the banks.

Bonaya said they consulting with the financial institutions to find ways of accommodating credit needs of the women who have matured off the Women Enterprise Fund loan facility.

             

 

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