Savings group helps women to fight for their place in society

Phillip Samiti a member of Northern Range Lands Sacco receives an award as the best youth saver. [Ndungu Gachane, Standard]

Women from pastoralist communities can now engage in socio-economic activities after years of their input being disregarded due to cultural beliefs.

This is after the locals of nine pastoralist communities, who are members of Northern Rangelands Trust, formed a Sacco with the aim of providing financial intermediary to the members through savings and loans.

Namunken Napolok, 41, from Nassulu conservancy in Isiolo county who is one of the beneficiaries of the Sacco says it has helped to grow her shop into a wholesale business.

Due to her high savings portfolio, Napolok was announced this year's highest dividend earner after receiving Sh41,000 in dividends.

She was awarded the bonus during the delegates' Annual General Meeting where a total of Sh1.65 million was distributed to the delegates.

"After gaining financial literacy skills that include a saving culture, I established a shop that has now grown into a wholesale business, and I'm contemplating opening branches in other parts of Isiolo county," said Napolok.

In the group with 5,563 members, 69 per cent of them are women who are taught how to save and invest before they are eligible for loans. This is because 90 per cent of members have not received formal education.

Elema Mohamud, a Senior Development Enterprise Officer at the Sacco said unlike other lending facilities, the Sacco does not ask for collateral security against loans from members and instead relies on trust.

"This is because land in our area of jurisdiction is communally owned and our members therefore do not have title deeds. Once members are seconded in the Sacco, we take three months to educate them on financial literacy and savings culture," Mohamud said.

He said this has helped to wipe out persistent discriminatory social and cultural norms against women, and has also seen men venture into alternative sources of income besides pastoralism which is prone to high risks.

He said the Sacco's savings and shares have increased from Sh8 million to Sh37.2 million in 2022 and the institution has so far disbursed over Sh182 million to finance business startups and expansions since its inception in 2016.

Phillip Samiti from West Gate Conservancy was once a jobless youth but he is now a successful entrepreneur.

"From my little wages, I joined the Sacco and started saving and now I'm a homeowner with a vehicle to transport my commodities," Samiti said, describing the Sacco as a game changer among the pastoralist communities.

Members of the Sacco are drawn from Laikipia, Isiolo, Garissa, Marsabit, Baringo, West Pokot, Tana River and Lamu counties. Members have also passed a resolution to open it to non-pastoralist communities.

They get technical advice from the Northern Rangelands Trading, a business accelerator model established by the Northern RangeLands Trust (NRT), to accelerate the development of sustainable and resilient commerce across the member conservancies.

The NRT is a membership organisation owned and led by the 43 community conservancies it serves in Kenya (northern and coastal regions) and Uganda.

It was established as a shared resource to help build and develop community conservancies, which are best positioned to enhance people's lives, build peace and conserve the natural environment.

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