Rolling up your sleeves and engaging with credit unions on the ground is the best way to see the movement’s impact.
In early March, a contingent of U.S. and international credit union leaders visited Kenya on the first of several field engagement trips in 2018 by the World Council of Credit Unions. The goal of field engagements is to deepen understanding, share knowledge, foster friendships, and return home with stories that vividly illustrate the valuable work being done by the credit union movement with support from the World Council.
Here’s a rundown of what participants witnessed and learned:
►Kenya Union of Savings & Credit Cooperatives Ltd. (KUSCCO Ltd.) is the champion of the African credit union movement. A visit with KUSCCO Ltd. included meeting with members of Kenya’s parliament, who are working with KUSCCO to articulate the impact that savings and credit cooperative organizations (SACCOs) have in both urban and rural areas, especially for farmers.
►Farmers are thriving by participating in the Cooperative Development Program (CDP). CDP, adopted in Kenya in 2016, is a World Council initiative in partnership with USAID that is improving small rural producers’ income by working with local SACCOs in offering a lending toolkit to finance, grow skills, and expand results for farmers and their SACCOs.
Increases in crop yield and harvest incomes are at 150% per farmer in some cases, resulting in more farmers wanting to join the program.
SACCOs are benefiting by growing their agricultural loan portfolio with lower delinquency rates, making it a more attractive product for SACCOs to provide members than traditional loans.
►Mwalimu National is making a big difference. Mwalimu National was one of several SACCOs the group visited to get perspective on SACCO differences in operational size, scope, and product offerings. As one of Africa’s largest SACCOs, with $37 million in assets and 83,000 members, its operations are extensive and entrepreneurial.
Mwalimu National has a strategic focus on affordable housing and plans to develop 871 units—one of the largest undertakings by a credit union in Africa.
►Women are transforming SACCOs through leadership and empowerment. Every stop on the journey introduced the group to dynamic women who are entrepreneurs, strategists, department heads, and national chairwomen of the movement.
Flora Mukiri and Teressa Mutegi are just two examples. Mukiri took up farming and, with the help of World Council and her local SACCO, increased her yield, profits, and skills to sustain and grow her business. And Mutegi, national chairwoman of Mwalimu National, has been instrumental in achieving significant projects that grow the SACCO and give back to members and the community.
►Busia Orphanage shows how credit unions support their communities. The second leg of the engagement trip centered on volunteering at the Busia Compassionate Centre. Supported by World Council since 2007, the Centre champions the growth and education of orphans affected by the HIV and AIDS epidemic in western Kenya.
The field engagement group planted banana trees, repaired rooftops and laundry lines, and created new well covers to keep the Centre’s water source clean and healthy. To learn more about the hosts during the Kenya field engagement, visit the websites for KUSCCO LTD. (kuscco.com), Mwalimu National (mwalimunational.coop), and Busia Compassionate Centre (doglobalgood.org/busia).
MIKE REUTER is executive director of the Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions (doglobalgood.org). Contact him at email@example.com.