MCI’s Group Savings & Loans Training Program Brings “Change” to Manyatta Residents
“Change Starters” was one of eight groups participating in an innovative Group Savings & Loan (GS&L) program in Manyatta, Kisumu’s largest informal settlement, brought to life by MCI Public Health Specialist for Kisumu Beldina Opiyo-Omolo, with assistance from consultant Stephen Akello.
GS&L programs, designed to address gaps existing within the microfinance and traditional banking sectors, have noted positive results across Kenya in recent years. The community of Manyatta, a neighborhood facing many challenges, from poor sanitation and inadequate shelter to a dearth of economic opportunities and formal financial services, was greatly in need of a plan to help individuals increase savings and access loans.
Manyatta’s GS&L program originally launched with a five-day training in 2013, and since then, the Change Starters and the other seven GS&L groups have enjoyed remarkable progress, saving change to make lasting change – for themselves, their group members and their community.
“In the first quarter alone, 123 practicing clients have a cumulative savings of KES 258,900 – nearly $3,000,” says Beldina Opiyo-Omolo, who sought to bring GS&L to Manyatta after facilitating countless medical interventions in Kisumu, organizing girls’ and mothers’ clubs and training Urban Community Health Workers, also in Manyatta. “Our groups also saw a nearly 20-percent return on savings – individuals who were virtually ‘unbankable’ now have resources to start businesses and tools to improve their current circumstances.”
GS&L program leaders attributed the program’s first quarter success to a number of factors, including the extensive training given to participants, which helped them identify group leaders, form operational guidelines – “constitutions” – and implement detailed record-keeping. Program leaders also consulted with local officials and key stakeholders on the program methodology to garner community buy-in, and closely supervised the groups as they strived to save money and to earn interest from the loans they extended to group members. Notably, this was the first GS&L program in a peri-urban area and the first to adopt an e-recording model, using phones to record data on attendance, savings, loans, fines and meeting summaries.
MCI is confident that the program will continue to be successful, and at the end of the first cycle, Change Starters and their fellow savings groups will have made tremendous strides, not only in increasing their access to and knowledge of financial services, but also in boosting their own self-esteem. The community, too, stands to benefit – from these savers’ knowledge, from their improved livelihoods and from the contributions they will undoubtedly make, to Manyatta’s outlook, to the prospects of its inhabitants and to Kisumu as a whole.