Strong Communities - Strong Currencies

I had the pleasure to visit Kwe Kende in Nyalgunga, Siaya County one of the strongest groups (chamas) in the Sarafu Network across Kenya, and discuss some key points on how they are going on with Community Inclusion Currency as individuals and also as a chama.

In the afternoon we had a market session where members were able to sell and buy their goods in both Sarafu and Kenyan Shillings. This was my favorite part of the visit. Users had different commodities like: tomatoes,vegetables, bananas, fish, greengrams, millet, firewood, sugarcane, beans, onions, chapatis, ropes, brooms, among others. Most of these goods are locally available. and most users went back home with food and also had sales which allowed them to save some Kenyan Shillings. They were happy and satisfied.

"Sarafu has really helped me, I look forward to chama days because I know that I'll get all the basic needs that I need without struggling. I'm also sure of selling my mboga and save some coins," said Mary Nyallum.

On Tuesday I met another session of the Kwe Kende Group in Siaya town. We had a short general meeting and also provided solutions to any questions and concerns that they had. Most of these users run small businesses like kiosks, hotels (kibanda), tailor shops, shoes, clothes among others. They are equally excited about Sarafu and are happy that Sarafu has been of great help to them in both their businesses and in providing for their basic needs. Read about one of the users here in more detail.

Based on these discussions the group agreed that what makes Sarafu work for them:

What works for Kwe Kende Group?

1. Market days: They hold 3 meetings in a week- Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. This is to ensure that everyone (at least 186 families) attends at least one on their free days. During these meetings, they talk about how their week was with Sarafu and any problems that arose. They sell and buy from one another and also save in the chama and pay loans if any.

2. Prosumer Empowerment: They've empowered each other, in that everyone tries to come to the chama meetings with something to offer in goods or services. This way, they easily meet their needs without blaming anyone for buying and not selling using Sarafu. They encourage themselves to believe everyone has something to offer the community.

3. Community Projects: They've started a chicken rearing project and gardens that brings them together. They take care of them in turns and use Sarafu to pay for the upkeep. These capacity building and productive projects are an amazing anchor for CICs. Any group excess in food created by the group is distributed based on the amount of Sarafu that one receives in his/her business because it's these that they save in a week.

4. Leadership and Stewardship: The group officials are dedicated, especially the secretary Leah Aluoch who visits users randomly within the week. Leah stated that she has to visit users who miss the weekly meetings just to know if they have any issues and to encourage them. She has kept track of all her 186 members.

5. Unity: The members are from one community, they've trusted each other and they understand their strengths and embrace their weaknesses.

6. Loops and Cycles in a Circular Economy: They've created loops that allows them to receive all the things that they need within their network.

8. Fines and repercussions: The chama members incur a fine of Ksh.10 in case of lateness. They use the same for airtime to reach out to members during the week and to support those that can't genuinely use Sarafu. Also note that there is a small tax on CIC that is deducted (0.5%) of account balances that goes back out to active users.

Elinor Ostrom I think would be proud at how this community has managed their credit commons. I was impressed by how they have ensured a way to support to one another and build strong bonds even as national currency dries up in the area. As humans, we are wired to collaborate, to coexist and to hold each other up and this is exactly what this group thrives to achieve each day. May we emulate them in different communities and may we become better.

Thanks again to Emma Onyango one of the founders of Bangla-Pesa in Bangladesh (an informal settlement near Mombasa) who brought the Community Inclusion Currency concept to rural Siaya.

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