Would you give a loan to an uneducated warrior with an AK-47? How about a woman who can't read or write?
In 2016, NRT and NRT Trading were supported by USAID to start an initiative focused on helping women and young men in conservancies to build sustainable businesses. The Savings and Credit Cooperative (SACCO) provides relevant financial training and an accessible savings and loans scheme to young warriors at risk of being caught up in the front lines of conflict, and women who are frequently denied business and education opportunities by a patriarchal society.
The member-driven cooperative uses mobile money to make savings and credit accessible even when the nearest bank is hundreds of miles away, and is helping to create an environment for businesses to thrive in remote conservancies. After completing the necessary financial literacy training, members are required to pay a 500-shilling ($5) membership fee and are asked to invest in a $10 share capital with a minimum monthly deposit of $3. After a 6-month membership, the SACCO will loan members three times their savings with no interest.
Critical to its success is the fact that the SACCOs are run for and by the members. In the warrior (moran) groups, 'Star Morans' and 'Superstar Morans' are elected as leaders, and charged with debt collection, overall running of the SACCO, and raising financial awareness among their peers. These men must be good leaders and peace ambassadors, and have good business instincts. Not only is it turning illiterate young men into entrepreneurs, but the SACCO is also contributing to peace. Reports from the field suggest that warriors busying themselves with their businesses are not interested in taking part in conflict, despite peer pressure to do so.
The impact on women is significant too. As more women are empowered through SACCOs to earn their own income, there is an increasing awareness of their rights to participate in, and steer, activities in their conservancy.
There are currently 2,052 members in the SACCO - 63% of which are women. Ksh. 2.2 million (US$ 22,000) was invested in the SACCO in 2018, and members accrued savings of Ksh. 3.8 million (US$ 38,000) to support their families and businesses. Ksh. 2.1 million (US$ 21,000) was invested in business loans for 66 young warriors through the Nabulu Moran Empowerment Fund. Each year, a larger proportion of CLF funds are being dedicated by conservancies to starting SACCOs, after seeing the benefits of existing cooperatives.