“I always have business ideas. But capital has always been the biggest obstacle. I used to sell water to make a living. The income barely met daily family needs. Now I am running a shop and I have high hopes as business is good,” says Nashere Loomaabok, a member of Ariyon women’s group in Illeret, Marsabit County of Kenya. A mother of 7 children, she says she is lucky to be able to feed her family even as the drought is affecting the rest of her community members. With an elderly husband who is mostly resting, she has been left to cater for the needs of the family.

Her children are of between three and 15 years old. Four of them are attending school with one in secondary school away from Illeret and three in primary schools. The others are yet to be enrolled in school. Ileret is located in Marsabit County of Kenya on the eastern shore of Lake Turkana, north of Sibiloi National Park and near the Ethiopian border.
“I was able to access more capital that helped me start this shop,” she says as she sits in her shop attending to customers. She lives in Kerech village in Ileret Ward. Kerech just like the rest of Ileret, has been characterized by years of perennial droughts decreasing the household food security.

She started her shop in 2018 after securing a loan of 20,000 Kenya Shillings (200 US dollars) from her village savings and loan association. Using business skills gained through training facilitated by Pastoralist Community Initiative and Development Assistance (PACIDA), she has been able to transform her shop from retailing basic food items to providing food credits to the community.
“We used to save as a group but we had challenges. We did not have good structures to guide us on how to save money and access loans. PACIDA trained us on village savings and loans approach and since then we have gained knowledge on how to run our group affairs. We have been able to form a constitution that guides us during our weekly meetings, on our savings and even accessing loans and paying pack,” says Nashere.

Ariyon women’s group started in 2012 as a self-help group and is among four groups that received training on business skills, management, marketing, financial management, group dynamics and leadership. The training activities included a partnership with Marsabit County Trade Department and department of social services.
“I can’t wait to finish paying my current loan so I can begin on my dream of putting up accommodation and hotel facilities,” Nashere says.

Successfully repaying her current loan makes Nashere eligible to secure an even larger loan. However, she explains that the main challenge is lack of income by members of the local community who rely mostly on credit to provide for their families. “A majority of them take long to repay. This in turn reduces the working capital hence hindering expansion of my business. Some even fail to repay forcing intervention of local administration and local elders,” she says.

She hopes other group members will also utilize knowledge gained from the support offered by PACIDA and help unshackle themselves from the restraints of poverty. All indicators show a positive trend towards improvement by most group members who are trying their hands on different business ventures.
PACIDA is partnering with Malteser International under the project funded by German Cooperation. The project will also link the trained groups with other financial institution in order to strengthen them and help them access loans.

Story by: Tarry Johnstone, May 2019