With every transaction being logged anonymously on a public blockchain we have unprecedented insight into what living below the poverty line means in rural and urban Kenya.
All the anonymous data from 2019 is freely available on github: with 92,223 transactions of 7,630 users. Pulling out what represents distribution and redemption of community currencies we are left with roughly 168,000 USD of trade between Sarafu users. The voucher redemption cost was a total of 12,000 USD of Sarafu purchased from local hubs and savings groups by donors and then re-injected into the system. We've been blessed with all walks of researchers this year from anthropology, network science, economics and more - if you know someone interested in helping with research please let them know about this dataset!
What does this mean?
7,630 people living below the poverty line were each given 400 digital vouchers (~$4 USD) with a variable exchange rate to Kenyan Shillings. With little training - generally word of mouth - all kinds of people used these vouchers as a medium of exchange. Backstopping this trade was savings groups (generally 25 women) who would collect the vouchers as part of their own savings and loan repayment schemes and could cash out a limited supply 50% of their voucher balances per month. This financial guarantee was enough to give the surrounding markets confidence (building a social guarantee) and trade over 5x the entire amount of Sarafu in circulation.
Giving cash is often more direct and more effective than other types of aid. But with Community Inclusion Currencies like Sarafu we leverage limited cash donations into variable rate vouchers. Farmers, teachers, fishermen and so on are accepting being paid in Sarafu (which is actually broken into 12 different community specific currencies), not because they would prefer it over Kenyan shillings but rather because there aren't enough Kenyan shillings to go around. Communities are using Sarafu to fill the gap and support each other
That's not all - in 2019 Grassroots Economics provided phone support and training across Kenya and began planning with Red Cross on disseminating this training to other marginalized areas such in Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Malawi. We also began working with sempo.ai on building an open source platform for Community Inclusion Currencies which can be used by anyone.