Monday, August 18, 2008

Faith Venture Opportunity in Kenya


Pastor Francis Ranogwa made a surprise visit to Bud’s Warehouse last week for a tour of our operations. He is in the process of building a micro-enterprise and business development program in Kenya for members of his impoverished community in the rural area of Vihiga and urban area of El Doret. I met Pastor Francis 4 years ago through Randy Stensgard of Centennial Community Church. Randy attended Bible school with Pastor Francis 15 years ago in Germany and has been involved in his ministry. Pastor Francis has developed a church, two orphanages and two schools in Kenya.

About two years ago, I participated in a series of meetings with Cathy Cutrell, Randy and April Stensgard and others discussing the development of this micro-enterprise project. April Stensgard initiated some early food security projects and work with the widow community. After realizing that we had much more to learn, Cathy Cutrell enrolled in a series of classes through the Chalmers Center. She developed an intensive plan-of-action and then left for Kenya to begin its implementation with Pastor Francis.

Last week, it was exciting to hear how the plan was working. Unfortunately, the recent civil warfare in Kenya caused a major slow down in the implementation of the plan. But the return of peace has meant that the development of the program is now continuing. In January of 2006, several community self-help groups of individuals with similar business interests were created in order to support each other’s growth and accountability. These groups have developed business plans, learned about business development from an area micro-enterprise agency, and saved money towards their goals. They hope to be able to develop funding sources for their enterprises in the near future. The community will contribute a portion of their group savings with funders' portion to seed these push-me-up loans. Twenty loans are planned to be accessed in a few months with their first funding. As additional funding sources are found and loans repaid, the community fund is expected to build so loans can be made to all group members and expand further.

In the rural area of Vihiga, one community group, organized by local widows, was able to leverage the donation of $300 from the United States into a thriving small farming operation that produces tomatoes, green peppers, and collard greens. Another business has started raising chickens. They have discovered that there is a six months to one-year waiting list for new chickens so they would like to develop a chicken hatchery business. In addition, it is impossible to find chicken feeds in their area. They hope to invest in machinery to start producing their own animal feeds.

This is a faithventure opportunity that really excites me. The church-based community in Vihiga has identified specific economic needs and researched possible solutions at their own initiative. I believe that this is a super opportunity for Christian business leaders to invest technical and financial resources to assist in the development of these businesses with a potential positive impact on many lives. It’s my hope that this forum can help identify these opportunities and connect individuals with the heart and ability to help.

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