03 Aug Charity Ndegwa
Charity Ndegwa, a project officer at African Pro Poor Tourism Development Centre began using Open Book Trading after being introduced by a Network Manager who was already using the system and had seen the benefits. APTDC in collaboration with ILO identified a gap among a group of women in Kimana who were HIV positive. Despite the fact that these women are expected to eat a balanced diet, APTDC realized that they were not economically empowered to be able to purchase or even grow their own food. It is from this background that the Women Empowerment Project was born with the sole objective of empowering the women to produce food for their own consumption and sell the surplus to the tourist hotels within the locality. To implement the project to its full capacity the group needed finances and other aids to trade. As Charity had an understanding of the OBT system she approached William Hoyle, the Chief Executive, with the project proposal. Even though the proposal seemed vague at the beginning, Charity was moved by the fact that techfortrade was very receptive and enthusiastically believed in the project. They agreed to fund the project by giving the group a loan of 56,000 Kenya shillings ($560) without demanding collateral or previous records of trade from the group – which they did not have. Offering the money as a loan and not a grant allowed the women to take ownership of the project and actively participate to ensure full payment. The loan was to be paid in installments of 1,500 Kenya shillings ($15) per deal which made it very user friendly and attractive to the group. techfortrade also supported them to get a collection centre where they can store their produce when they buy from other farmers, so as to meet huge demands from the Serena Hotels. Serena Hotels were very impressed with the quality of their produce and are willing to recommend them to other hotel branches. The collection centre was equipped with crates and a weighing scale to ensure that the produce is stored properly, so as to meet the quality standards set by the hotel. From using the OBT system the group has been able to create a portfolio (a trading record) which they intend to use to negotiate more capital from other financiers such as Umati capital. The system has also increased confidence in the women to start their own businesses, including Charity who realized that she could make a huge impact improving the livelihood of farmers. From this, she has started her own company known as Nawiri which is focused on the grain value chain, buying products from farmers in North Rift Kenya and supplying them to big companies such as BIDCO. Despite the many challenges that Charity faced while using the OBT service, such as poor internet connectivity in the village and high illiteracy levels among the women, which made it difficult to train them on how to use the system, Charity is of the opinion that all traders should embrace OBT in their business. This is because the system is technology based which is a global trend to keep the traders abreast of their competitors. The system is also very efficient, user friendly and an apt way to keep your records.