THE POWER OF SELF HELP GROUP APPROACH
When AICCAD –GICEP program introduced the Self help Group (SHG) approach in Gwassi ,most people did not believe that it could work out. Most of the women groups were already practicing the Village Saving and Loaning ( VSL) concept, which promoted un uniformed savings by members and sharing out at the end of each year. With the SHG approach , the groups were sensitized to have uniform weekly savings of reasonable amounts that were affordable to all members and the the accrued savings and interests from loans were to be accumulated over time, thus give the group a solid economic base.
Lucas is married and has six children . Both Lucas and his wife are peasant farmers and largely depend on their farm produce as their major source of income for household basic needs and education of their children. The first three children are in secondary schools while the younger three are in primary schools. All the children go to nearby schools.
Lucas with other 16 members from his village in Gwassi joined together to form a self-help group with an aim of improving their lives after attending a sensitization meeting on SHG concept in 2017. The members meet every Sunday afternoon and save ksh 20 per week for the last three years. The savings and interests have accrued to ksh 108,000. An amount that they could not imagine ever having in their lives. “Before this group , I never imagined that peasant farmers like us could accumulate such amount of money, Now we are able to get loans of even over ksh 20,000. This has helped me to educate my children who are in secondary school with ease. “ narrates Lucas who testifies that his children could be at home if not for the SHG. Apart from the Savings and loaning activity, the group members have gained a lot from trainings on both agriculture, entrepreneurship and child protection issues courtesy of GICEP project which has been building their capacities since 2017.
During the height of the COVID 19 in May 2020, Lucas took a loan of Ksh 6,000 from the group to improve his farming activities since all his children were at home after the closure of schools. He bought different vegetable seeds and pesticides concentrated on his farm. With the help of the children he expanded his vegetable production and this has greatly assisted him financially during the pandemic.
“Most people have greatly been affected financially since corona started, but for me, it made me to work hard on my farm. My family never lacked food and from the sales of surplus vegetables and cassava, I get not less than Ksh 5,000 per week. From the weekly income, I have been able to cater for other family basic needs including giving my older children airtime to continue with the online studies. I have managed to continue paying my monthly subscriptions of NHIF as self employed .This makes me never worry about hospital bills whenever any of my family members get sick.
My greatest joy now is that I am not worried about schools’ fees for my children if they are called upon to report back”. Says Lucas.
Lucas is happy that his agriculture venture has also made his neighbors’ to change their attitude on horticulture. Most of the neighbors’ have been consulting him on how to improve their farms especially on pests and diseases control. This has boosted his self-esteem and he is sincerely grateful to the GICEP project for supporting him achieve his dream of educating his children.