July/August 2013 


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In This Update...



Each year WMI surveys borrowers in the loan program to collect data on program impact. In 2013, WMI's college interns analyzed data from over 1,000 participants in the WMI loan program to assess the impact of the program in empowering rural women and improving household living standards for their families.  Across WMI loan hubs in East Africa the results continue to be impressive!    


Income Gains: Earning power increases  

  • Only 11% of borrowers earned more than $1000/year when entering the loan program
  • Over 72% of borrowers earned more than $1000/year (annualized) after just 6 months

Savings Gains: Savings rates double

  • At 6 months, 28% of borrowers reported saving at least $10/ month
  • At 12 months, 59% of borrowers reported saving at least $10/ month

6-Month Loan Impact: Borrowers are healthier and more skilled

  • 95% of borrowers' report their families are healthier
  • 79% of borrowers report feeling more determined
  • 70% of borrowers report improved literacy and numeracy skills

Each of the loan programs WMI funds in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania serves rural women from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds who face different local challenges; but, they have one thing in common - they are systematically excluded from access to financial services. This exclusion severely limits their ability to provide for their families and improve their living standards.


Click on each country link to see how the WMI loan program is succeeding in helping the rural women of East Africa lift themselves and their communities out of poverty.



WMI funds village loan programs in four distinct areas of Uganda in the North, Northeast, East and Southwest.  Across the country the loan program has achieved the following results (breakdowns for each region follow):

Income Improvements 
  • Only 12% of borrowers earned more than $1,000/year when entering the loan program
  • After 6 months, 77% of borrowers earned more than $1,000/year
  • After 24 months, fully 90% of borrowers earned more than $1,000/year


Savings Improvements

  • After six months in the loan progr  am, 50% of borrowers saved at least $10/ month    

                           While 16% saved over $30/month

  • After 18 months in the loan program, 87% of borrowers saved at least $10/month

                            While 63% saved over $30/month


Sironko, Kapchorwa and Mbale Districts

Buyobo, in Sironko District, is the headquarters for the WMI loan program in East Africa. WMI's successful transition to independent banking platform was developed here in 2010. The local economy has benefitted enormously from the numerous businesses launched by women with WMI loans.



Bududa and Manafwa Districts

This is WMI's first expansion loan hub location. Mentored by the WMI team from Buyobo, through peer-to-peer knowledge transfer, WMI members in this region have also begun to graduate to independent banking.




Kabale District

Less than 10 miles from the Rwandan border, and a crossroad for travel to nearby D.R.Congo, this area is constantly subject to the upheaval and chaos endured by its neighboring countries. Coupled with an out-reach program that provides porridge for local primary school children, the WMI loan program has given rural women here their only chance to start a business.


Amuru and Gulu Districts

The WMI loan hubs in northern Uganda are located in areas hard hit by the 20 year insurgency that devastated the region and resulted in over 2.5 million internally displaced persons. WMI is helping families rebuild their lives through women owned and operated small business enterprises



Through WMI loans and business training, rural women have increased the productivity of their businesses and improved their standard of living as well.

Before entering the loan program:

  • 73% of borrowers were earning less than $250/year
  • Only 2% of borrowers were earning over $1000 per year

After 6 months in the loan program:

  • Only 28% of borrowers were earning less than $250/year (annualized) - over a 60% reduction in the number of borrowers at the extreme poverty level
  •  16% were earning over $1000 per year - an 800% increase in the number of borrowers achieving this higher earning level

WMI operates through 4 loan hubs in Central and Western Kenya


In Central Kenya, WMI is focused in villages in Meru County and Laikipia 2013nager2 County.  Both are extremely rural and impoverished regions, with a lack of sufficient water and an increasingly dry climate.  This makes farming difficult and greatly affects the health of villagers.   Along with malnourishment, diseases such as malaria, typhoid, and HIV/AIDS are common.  Many of the people in this Central area are Maasai, a semi-nomadic ethnic group, with a traditionally patriarchal social structure.  Their lifestyle revolves around their cattle, which is a source of wealth and food.  Men are born to be warriors and women take on most of the household responsibilities: they feed and raise the cattle, raise the children, and take care of the daily household chores. 


In Western Kenya, WMI is focused in villages in the Western Province, situated near Lake Victoria, where the climate is very tropical, with lush forests and rolling hills.  Agriculture drives the economy, along with trade and livestock.    Poverty and literacy are major local issues: more than half of the people in this region are illiterate.  Malaria is prevalent, especially due to the tropical climate, and HIV/AIDS is a major problem as well.  Most of the villagers are Bantu speaking, sharing languages with Eastern Uganda.  Women are critical to the well-being of their communities: their responsibilities include not only taking care of the children, but providing for the family as well.  


With the WMI loan program we see the women starting successful businesses and traditional gender roles changing gradually.  Women are becoming more independent and husbands are starting to assist their wives with their businesses, as well as with household chores.




WMI started the first loan hub in Tanzania to combat the extreme poverty and discrimination experienced by Maasai women in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, who have been relocated to a desolate region from their traditional tribal lands. The area where the women now live is highly regulated - access to outside visitors is limited, agriculture is restricted, and water is scarce.  They are quite isolated and have few resources.  Even with these severe limitations, women in the loan program have launched successful businesses, increased their income, accumulated savings and significantly improved their household living standards.

 Before entering the loan program:

  • The Maasai women had no individual income

After 6 months in the loan program:

  •  70% of borrowers reported annualized income of at least $150/year

After 12 months in the loan program:

  • 100% of borrowers reported annualized income of at least $250/year  



In May of 2013, WMI launched a second loan hub in Tanzania in the village of Tloma, about fifteen minutes from the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater and two kilometers from the town of Karatu.  The women trace their ancestry back to the Iraqw tribe that inhabits this region. While the Iraqw have their own traditional language, many in Tloma have adopted Tanzania's national language and speak Kiswahili, reflecting the relatively progressive nature of the Tloma community.     


Because the village is less isolated, the community is more integrated with the country's overall development (compared to more traditional tribes like the Maasai); nevertheless, most families are extremely poor, living on an average household income of less than 50 cents/day. Typical families engage in subsistence agriculture (maize, beans and soy beans) and raise livestock for home consumption and sale. Tloma's economy is active, which means the women in WMI's program  have some experience buying/selling of goods. Their problem is access to capital to expand their businesses. With spirit and determination the ladies welcomed the WMI loan program as their opportunity to improve their earning potential and household living standards.   


Thank you!



As you can see from this year's data analysis, the WMI loan program continues to achieve impressive results in empowering rural women and catalyzing sustainable improvements in household living standards.  Everyday single day WMI is bringing the benefits of access to financial services to thousands of poor families in East Africa.  None of this is possible without your generous and loyal support.  A heartfelt thank you on behalf of all the rural women in East Africa that WMI serves! 



The WMI Board of Directors


Robyn Nietert          rgnietert@aol.com  

Betsy Gordon          betsygord@mac.com
Deborah Smith        deborahwsmith@yahoo.com

June Kyakobye        junekyaks@yahoo.com

Trix Vandervossen   bvandervossen@imf.org 

Jane Erickson          ericksonjn@verizon.net
Terry Ciccotelli        terryciccotelli@gmail.com