Microfinance – Kenya.

Natural Resource Management, Kenya.


The Community Savings and Loans project (previously Natural Resource Management project) is a partnership with Tembea Youth Centre for Sustainable Development, an indigenous community-based development organization based in Ugunja, Siaya district, Nyanza Province, Kenya. The project has come about out of a dire need to combat the devastating environmental degradation caused by human activity along river Nzoia in the newly created Ugenya district in Kenya (population 187,000). There has been a significant loss of ecosystem, forest, biodiversity and wetlands due to mismanagement of the resources.

There are some key factors that have caused significant environmental degradation in the Ugenya district:

  • There is a delicate balance between income generation and sustainable utilisation of natural resources. At present this balance has not been found, so the environment is being severely compromised.
  • There isn’t the skill or capacity to investigate alternative livelihoods for young people and their communities.
  • There is a lack of knowledge around sustainability and climate change.

The solution is to provide an integrated approach that will put the community at the centre of the project, providing alternative livelihood opportunities through a Community Savings and Loans Scheme, and supporting the rehabilitation of the degraded sites and awareness and education programs through schools.


Tembea’s aims through the project are to:

  • Empower 15 young individuals as effective community mobilisers, with skills on basic environmental education, environmental policies, planning and natural resource co-management principles.
  • Hold four public dialogue forums to increase environmental awareness amongst the community.
  • Facilitate establishment of five tree nurseries with capacity of 100,000 tree seedlings each in 5 schools/communities, and subsequent planting of the trees along the river. To date, five tree nurseries have already been established, 2 in local communities and 3 in primary schools.
  • Establish alternative livelihoods for the local people, to steer them away from activities that are detrimental to the local environment. See Community Savings and Loans below.

Initiatives in schools
Schools are a wonderful platform to pilot sustainable livelihood innovations, environmental conversation and natural resources management innovations. As centres of convergence for communities, students emulate practical skills learnt in school and implement them in their homes and communities.

Tembea’s work in schools includes the constructions of compost toilets; the establishment of kitchen gardens to feed the children in school; the establishment of small-scale businesses (poultry keeping, rabbit keeping) to generate income for the school; tree planting and environmental education.

In the Ulawe, Dendyo and Muhwayo Primary Schools, environment clubs have been formed currently with 56 members. Initiated activities include fortnightly environmental talks, and tree nursery work including local seed collection exercises.


Community Savings and Loans (CSL) is a savings and loaning led microfinance that have the community at centre stage.

The CSL groups are self-organised community groups who collectively save money and lend it to individuals within the group based on their level of need. Each member can put a case forward to the group for why they need a loan; the group then decides if it should be granted. The group also offers a support network for the individuals and gives them a sense of financial security, which most have never felt before.

With the CSL groups in place the individuals are then able to invest their own money into starting their small businesses. Donated funds through Sustainable Table support 70% of the start-up costs and each CSL group or individual must contribute 30%. This ensures that there is personal ownership of any assets that are purchased to help get the business started.

In December 2011, a total of 103 CSL groups had been set-up translating to approximately 2060 households. Net savings value of all groups is almost $10,000 AUD. Through this, a number of groups have initiated alternative livelihood options through joint venture such as indigenous poultry keeping, vegetable farming, and grain farming. The project therefore has great potential in transforming communities whilst embracing environmentally sound and sustainable livelihoods.

The CSL program is helping individuals and families in the region rebuild their lives. We were told a story about a lady who had lost her husband and became homeless. She turned to alcohol and was known as ‘the lady who shouted a lot’. Her community approached her to be a part of a local community savings and loans program and she was able to turn her life around, find a home and start a small business.


In 2012, Sustainable Table provided further funding to support Tembea in strengthening the capacity of communities they work with to effectively and efficiently address the underlying and emerging natural resource management challenges. Tembea worked to expand the Community Savings and Loans program to reach out to a further 3600 households in the region. Tembea also strengthened and scaled up their activities in schools, hoping to reach an additional 15 schools.

Click here to read the blog that Hayley wrote after returning from a project visit in October 2011.

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