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From the streets to owning a home

By | Aug 27th 2009 | 5 min read
By | August 27th 2009

The Jamii Bora Trust was formed in 1999 with the efforts of street beggar families and an enterprising woman, Ingrid Munro, the director of the trust who is "sufficiently charitable".

Over the years, the trust has evolved into a micro-finance institution with branches spread around the country. Its biggest project thus far is the Kaputiei housing scheme in Kisaju, about six kilometres from the Kitengela-Namanga Road.

Set on a 293-acre piece of land, the scheme is like a small town standing virtually in the middle of nowhere. The undulating plains provide a scenic breaker but coverage of mobile telephone networks is unreliable. A dusty road connects this town to the outside world, but these hardships are nothing to the residents of Kaputiei who bubble with enthusiasm at the privilege of being among the country’s homeowners.

Pupils drink water pumped from the scheme’s borehole.

Jane Ngoiri, a resident, encapsulates this joy. "Looking ahead, there is a good life. I can now plan for the future unlike before when I lived each day as it came," she says.

Ngoiri was a resident of Mathare slums where she used to live in a single room. Rent was Sh3,000. Today, she is the proud owner of a two-bedroom house.

"I lived in a house that was smaller than my sitting room. What is there to compare?" she poses as she shows off her home.

Before joining Jamii Bora Trust, Ngoiri had resigned herself to fate. As far as she was concerned, she was destined to spend the rest of her days in the depths of untold murk and suffering.

Solar-lit houses

Today, she runs a tailoring business from her house. She is one of many women waiting for the estate shopping centre to be completed so she can secure a shop from where she will conduct her business.

Clarice Adhiambo, another resident, moved into her house in January. She was among the first three women to move into Kaputiei. Seated proudly in her modest solar-lit house, Adhiambo narrates how she was one of the first members of Jamii Bora when she joined in 1999.

Her very first loan was worth Sh2,000. She paid it back and took another loan. Today, her credit is worth Sh350,000, which is the value of her brand new house.

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step," she enthuses.

Members of Jamii Bora Trust pay back their loans at an affordable interest rate of nine per cent.

In order to own a house at Kaputiei estate, an individual has to be part of a five-member group and must have an account where savings, or shares, are deposited regularly. The individual can then take a loan with a limit of twice the amount of her savings.

After three successful loans, one can then qualify to apply for a house on the scheme.

Ingrid Munro, the founder and director of this noble project, says the loans have successfully been used to start micro-businesses. The women, she says, always pay back their loans, making them credit worthy.

Residents work from their own houses.

Construction is still going on. Munro reveals that she has been able to keep the costs low by producing the construction materials. At the site is an area, which residents proudly call ‘the factory’. This is where blocks and tiles are produced under the watchful eye of Jenesta Kamene, the trainer.

The factory provides employment for residents and the output is considerable, producing up to 4,100 blocks a day using ballast and sand as the raw materials.

Apart from its own water supply, the scheme has a sewage treatment plant on site and a school, Kaputiei Primary School, which Grace Gikaru, the head teacher, says serves the children of members and the neighbouring communities. It has registered students for the primary school national examinations for the first time this year.

A stadium is in the pipeline to serve the area. The only obvious handicap at Kaputiei is transport. At the moment, residents rely on motorcycle operators who sometimes charge up to Sh100 for the six-kilometre distance to the main road.

Other activities planned for the scheme include health insurance and counselling services in addition to micro-financing and housing.

The trust reached a total loan portfolio of Sh3 billion in May and is expected to hit Sh4 billion by the end of this year as the membership intake swells.

Despite its ups and downs, the project has continued to draw admirers worldwide who are impressed by the quality and scale of the project and the unbelievable low costs. It has been billed one of the top seven destinations of the MicroLeadersQuest student clubs across America.

The project is compared to Bangladeshi’s revolutionary micro-credit structure that is fronted by 2006 Nobel peace prize winner, Prof Muhammad Yunus.

A registered utilities company under Jamii Bora manages the infrastructure including the water, sewerage and the road, which is to be constructed.

There are security guards on site who complement the policemen seconded to the project by the local administration.

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