In the fight against extreme poverty you often get questioning glances when you say you are teaching savings. People wonder, if they are struggling to eat or send their kids to school, how can they possibly manage to set aside anything. What we’ve learned, is that sometimes not having enough is a case of not having the knowledge of how to set aside money, or plan for the future, even with extremely limited funds. We are not just encouraging people to save, but equipping them with a new understanding of money management in order to help them become financially stable in an ever-changing and unstable situation.

One of the problems we faced was tearing down the barriers to preconceived thoughts about savings. Most of our farmers assumed that you need a lot extra at the end of the month or that you had to have continual access to a bank, or even that loans were a better solution. We started KAPESA Core a few years back, in order to start changing that mentality, to show how easy it could be to save and the positive affect it could have on their lives. Our niche is the extreme poor, and we still saw a margin that found saving to be inaccessible. By using some out of the box thinking and relying heavily on our Kenyan staff to Design Think solutions for this need, we came up with Msingi wa KAPESA or Foundational Savings.

Msingi wa KAPESA is the bare bones of savings, incorporating solid and interactive financial trainings with an extremely low minimum savings amount per month. We started in our new sub-locations to see if this was in fact a better solution to reaching the poorest of the poor. There are to be meetings once a month for six months. At these meetings we will provide a series of trainings, starting with the importance of savings and delving in to various money management skills leading up to loan management. At the end of the six months, they can choose to stay in Msingi wa KAPESA or transfer to KAPESA Core if they feel like they can save more regularly or larger amounts.

The response we had in our first group of meetings was phenomenal. Attendance encompassed a large percentage of Nuru farmers who had never joined savings programs before. They were all ready to start bringing contributions and even willing to pay a registration fee to cover costs and gain access to the service. When they were told that they could save just 50 shillings (roughly 62 cents US), the barrier to saving no longer looked so daunting. In one of our new sub-locations, Ngochoni, farmers brought together 12,6000 Kenyan shillings. It came to an average of 92 shillings per person, almost double the amount that had been asked of them. And they all brought the additional 50 shillings for the one time registration fee. We can’t wait to see the turn out for next month!

Sometimes the boundaries to a better living standard and financial stability are all in our mind. But when we break it down to basics, these skills become accessible to everyone. Our hope is that Msingi wa KAPESA will reach our niche, the poorest of the poor that often get overlooked when savings is brought up. Our goal is not for people to accumulate large savings accounts, but rather to show that they too can save. We want to equip people to better handle the economic shocks that are part of life here in Kuria, Kenya and to stop worrying about food on the table today so they can start thinking about all the possibilities of tomorrow.