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Banking on Women

Nasaruni Savings and Credit Cooperative Organization, an African Wildlife Foundation project in Kenya

When AWF helped the women of Kijabe Group Ranch start up a financial services organization back in 2009, little could we have predicted the immense impact the bank would have on the entire community. In 2007, we’d helped open The Sanctuary at Ol Lentille, a high-end lodge that provided community employment and income, after the community had set aside some communal lands for conservation.

But the women of Kijabe had the foresight to point out that, while this opportunity for jobs and income was great, they also needed access to financial services. Otherwise, they had no way to save money or get loans to better their lives.

With seed money and capacity-building support from AWF, therefore, the Nasaruni Savings and Credit Cooperative Organization was established. It was a modest venture, starting with 141 registered members and assets of Ksh 22,600 (about US$250).

That modest venture has grown exponentially in the past four years and now boasts more than 1,100 members with an asset base of Ksh 8.8 million (US$102,000). People from throughout the community have been able to better their lives—and ease their reliance on natural resources—thanks to Nasaruni.

Take Felister Maiyani. Felister is a married Maasai woman and mother of 10. If she had to depend on her savings alone, her dream of building a home for her family would remain just that—a distant dream. As a member of Nasaruni, however, she was able to take out a loan… and soon, her new house, complete with an iron-sheet roof rather than a thatch one, will become a reality.

Jane Meshami, shown here addressing the general meeting for the Nasaruni Savings and Credit Cooperative Organization in northern Kenya, says this AWF project has helped the community in innumerable ways.

The Honourable Jane Meshami—a nominated member of the Laikipia County Parliament—took out a loan from Nasaruni for her small business. The loan allowed her to complete construction on some rental houses, which are now providing income for her, her husband, who tends livestock, and her five children.

Jane has since taken out a second loan, to pay school fees for her son.

According to Jane, Nasaruni has helped the community in any number of ways: Women and men alike have learned the importance of saving. They have been able to plan and start small businesses. Children no longer stay home from school for lack of fees.

And these impacts, large and small, are likely to continue. The organization will soon add mobile phone–based banking services and become an agent for other commercial banks. Thanks to the women—and men—of Kijabe Group Ranch, the investment in Nasaruni has really paid off.

Brian McBrearity
About the Author

Brian is AWF's Managing Director of AWF’s African Conservation Schools program. Previously he served as AWF's Director of Conservation Enterprise. Brian is an experienced international development professional with expertise in areas such as program management, microfinance, agriculture development, and value chain analysis. He has lived and worked in East and Southern Africa and comes to African Wildlife Foundation with a varied background, including positions at TechnoServe, FINCA, and AllianceBernstein. In his current role, Brian oversees the AWF conservation enterprise portfolio and provides thought leadership as part of AWF’s senior program technical team. Brian holds an M.B.A. from Columbia University.

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AWF Blogs bring you to the critical landscapes we work in, where conservation benefits both wildlife and people alike. The blogs are written by our staff - men and women who have dedicated their lives to Africa's wildlife, people and wild lands.