A Chama Affair!

A Chama Affair!

By Nimo Nyambura

Nyeri, Kenya – Mary Nyambura Maina; sells groceries at the Karatina open air market in Nyeri County; on a good day she makes about 1500 shillings, a third of which is saved daily to her Chama account.

Mary is a member of the ‘Karatina Elite chama’, made up of about 17 women that work with her at the Karatina open air market selling groceries. On more than one occasion; these women have teamed up to help one of their own raise money to purchase expensive household items, pay school fees or even attend a dowry function, a venture that would otherwise be costly at an individual level.

Most women like Mary often lack enough collateral to take out loans individually; been in a Chama like the ‘ Karatina Elite’, helps to empower such women in low & middle income settings access finances.

Indeed, financial challenges contribute to the slow adoption of clean cooking technologies by most women in the developing world, noted a  report dubbed, ‘Scaling the Adoption of Clean Cooking Solutions through Women Empowerment’ by the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, adding that gender informed practices and financing are needed to empower women’s purchase of clean household cooking solutions.

Household cooking is mostly tasked to women and girls who often cook using traditional biomass in poorly ventilated rooms, exposing them to indoor air pollution – a cause of annual deaths of 4.3 million people globally, according to WHO- World Health Organization.

As such, diverse gender financing solutions are needed to increase the adoption and uptake of clean cooking solutions by women.

BURN Manufacturing, a leader in the cookstove sector in Kenya is reaching out to Chamas like Mary’s to encourage the adoption of its jikokoaTM- jiko that halves charcoal use, produces 64% less smoke and saves families more than 50 % on charcoal costs compared to the commonly used Kenya ceramic jiko (KCJ).

Said BURN’s VP in Sales & Marketing Chris Akin: “Women in Chama’s with as little as five members are now rallying together to buy the jikokoaTM modern charcoal jiko for their homes. Within two to three months; most recover the cost of buying the jiko- in reduced charcoal costs and time spent cooking, allowing them save money and time to invest in other income generating activities.”

The jikokoa retails for about $40, an amount that women in low and middle income settings may not be able to raise at once, through chamas  the women make small weekly payments, and within a few months they are able to access clean cooking technologies.

BURN provides the chamas with a special M-pesa pay bill number that allows them to send in weekly savings till they reach the mark up amount needed to buy the jikos for all members.

“We each contributed 100 shillings for the three days that we worked at the market,” said Ms.Maina, and within three months we had raised enough money to buy jikos for all our 17 members.”

To encourage uptake of the jiko, BURN picks ambassadors within particular chamas who act as intermediaries and pitch the jiko to members, once they buy the stoves they make a commission on each jiko. This creates a ripple effect as they reach out to other chamas within their vicinity, Mr. Akin explained.

“Now, with only two handfuls of charcoal; I can cook ugali and mboga, make tea and still have enough charcoal left to boil drinking water, cutting my charcoal cost by half” said Ms. Maina of her jikokoa experience.

The jikokoa is available in all leading supermarkets in Kenya such as Naivas, Nakumatt, Tuskys and Ukwala and retails for 3990Kshs.

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