• Microfinance in the News

  • WMI International Women's Day Celebrations

  • Networking to Expand Solar's Benefits to more Rural Communities

  • Girls' Empowerment Through Rabbit-Rearing

  • Shifting to Camel Products in Drought-Ridden Kenya

  • Meet WMI's New Loan Hub Leaders in Tanzania

  • WMI's 2021 Annual Report Completed

Country Updates:

In Uganda, the price of food, fuel and consumer goods has skyrocketed, wreaking havoc on household budgets. In the Mbale area, where WMI serves over 3,000 rural women, a kilogram of rice has doubled from $.75 to $1.50; a bar of soap that cost $1.10 now goes for $2.50 and gas has leaped from $1.10 to $1.50 per litre (less than ¼ of a gallon). The government blames the price jumps on the lingering effects of the Covid crisis, supply chain disruptions, and the war in Ukraine. Uganda imports nearly 50% of its wheat from Ukraine and Russia. With many families unable to afford household staples, price controls are now being discussed.

The U.N. recently reported that nearly 3.5 million people in Kenya now face severe hunger due to the food shortages caused by on-going drought conditions. Rainfall levels in areas where WMI works in Kenya’s semi-arid lands have seen little rainfall since 2020. Oxfam reports that crop production throughout the country has dropped 70%. People now walk long distances, up to 5 or 6 miles a day, to obtain water, frequently from untreated bore holes. The drought disproportionately affects women and girls, who are typically dispatched to carry water for the family. The County government of Laikipia, where WMI partners on loan hub operations with Lewa Conservancy, distributed 50 tons of maize seed to anxious farmers, bringing some relief to families facing food insecurity.
Many of the women WMI serves in Tanzania are semi-nomadic pastoralists living in The Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which covers over 3,200 square miles in the northern central part of the country. Originally part of the Serengeti, the NCA was split off in 1959 and established as an experimental mixed-use area where traditional tribal ways of life could co-exist with wildlife and the burgeoning tourist industry. With its unique landscape and flourishing wildlife habitats, the NCA was designated a World Heritage site in 1979.

Earlier this year, the government began taking steps to force the Maasai out of the NCA by adopting harsh restrictions, including a ban on crop cultivation and limiting access to rivers and rangelands for livestock grazing. The government’s NCA master plan now proposes to divide it into four zones: about 80% of the area now available to the Maasai will be off-limits and designated as a Conservation Area with wildlife; only the remaining 20% will be available for multiple use by both locals and wildlife. This would result in resettlement of more than 70,000 residents, most of whom are Maasai. Alternative proposals call for resettlement of all residents of the NCA with the government reserving the right to re-designate it as a Game Control Area to license trophy hunting activities. Local communities are fighting the plans and demonstrating against the government’s proposals. 
Microfinance in the News
Bloomberg reported recently that microfinance in developing countries can push marginalized populations into over-indebtedness with tragic results. Bloomberg article. We think it important to take a moment to address this matter and share how the WMI program avoids these issues and generates positive outcomes for borrowers and communities.

One of the key elements of many of the programs outlined in the article is how the funding of the program works. Typically, funding comes from institutional or individual investors who are looking for a profit on their investment or, at a minimum, a return of their capital. This sets the stage for any income after expenses to be extracted from the community and returned to the investors as profit. 
We structured WMI on an entirely different model – we build infrastructure and develop human resources in the communities we serve instead of extracting profit from them. Our key focus is providing resources to rural businesswomen and local leadership so that they can build a self-sustaining, non-profit, village-level financial services organization. This allows WMI to keep the donated funds circulating in the community and any income left over after local program expenses is plowed back into service projects that help bring about positive changes within the community. Our fundamental belief is that women have agency over their lives and that our borrowers and local staff have the best understanding of what is needed in their communities. They lead the way as they have ownership of the loan program and the resources that it generates. WMI’s Village Led Approach is what empowerment is all about.
One of the goals of the WMI program is to transition women into the mainstream economy so that they can graduate to institutional financial services. WMI can then re-use donations to fund new borrowers, not trap rural people in a debt cycle they can never escape, with higher interest rates and fees. Marginalized populations are very vulnerable to high-priced lending schemes because few financial services are available to them. WMI is working to change that paradigm by creating viable village-level organizations that rural women can easily access and confidently rely on for financial services and business skills training. 
WMI International Women's Day Celebrations
Local staff and borrowers in WMI’s loan hub in Karatu, Tanzania celebrated International Women’s Day by reaching out to other women in the community less fortunate than themselves and by sponsoring a community-wide celebration of women’s rights, health issues and empowerment. Public celebrations like this, particularly in rural areas where information on women’s issues is difficult to obtain, expands WMI’s reach far beyond just the borrowers in the loan program. Jane Masila, our fellow in Tanzania, provided this heartening account of the day:
The day started by visiting Endamarariek Hospital, located in our newest loan sub-hub. We decided to visit this hospital to show by practicality that we also help the community which is surrounding us, not only issue loans and do training for our own loan group members.

We visited Maternity Ward and found ten women who had just delivered. One woman had pre-mature twin girls but the hospital has special facilities in case of different challenges like that and mother and her girls are doing well. We spend some time with them and talk about reasons that we celebrate this day and discuss women’s issues like:

  • Advantages of proper meals after delivery of baby, especially for early three months.
  • Proper way to raise their children to have good health and manners.
  • Encourage single mothers to work very hard after maternity leave instead of crying for their men who left them alone.
We also prepared simple gifts for them so they can also feel loved and happy on that day. We give each woman one pair of African print (KITENGE) and one soap bar. We believe maybe next time we can provide many gifts, but we are really thankful that each woman on that ward puts a smile on that day from our visit.

Another big celebration was held at QARU sub-hub. The celebration started at 02:00 pm. We invited 200 people who were women and men surrounding QARU hub. Also, we celebrate with 13 Widows and 12 children who are having different incapability like Autism, the head, spine and tail problems, and others with disability of organs like legs and hands.
We had two guest of honor who was a Member of Parliament (MP) for special seats Ms. Cesilia Pareso and another guest of honor was Women’s Right Activist Mrs. Anna Sospheter. We have got a lot of knowledge from them like:

  • How to support each other and grow our economy.
  • How to do different things by not being scared of failure.
  • To not stay quiet in violence against women.
  • Check up our health, especially during early pregnancy, because information shows a lot of children here in Tanzania are born with HIV/AIDS and this is because of delay to attend clinic.
  • Also, they talked about Breast Cancer and Cervical Cancer to conduct frequently check-ups since it is more curable when it is in stage 1, 2 and 3, differently from stage 4, which has difficulty to be cured.

We had really fun, enjoyed traditional dances, and we listened to some poems prepared by women from Ayalabe loan sub-hub. Also, we provided some small gifts for those widows and disability children, for widows and girls who are disabled we give them one pair of African print (KITENGE) and 10,000/= (approximately $4) while for those boys who are disabled we give them one pair of Maasai shuka (CULTURAL FABRIC) and 10,000/= each. We had lunch together and soft drinks and shot some photos with our guest of honor and all people who came. It was really a good day and enjoyable we are glad we put smiles on each person who attend our ceremony.

On behalf of our staff, special thanks goes to all board member of WMI because they are the ones who make us doing all of this issues we are doing now. Thank you so much and may almighty GOD bless you all. And WMI’s special thanks goes to all our donors and supporters who make this type of village level women’s empowerment possible!
Networking to Expand Solar's Benefits to More Rural Communities
WMI’s history is one of networking with hundreds of individuals, non-profits, and companies to improve access to resources for rural communities, particularly village women and their families. Along the way, we have collaborated with a multitude of remarkable people who are quietly using their skills and personal ingenuity to improve village life.

Two of those people are Karl Klontz and Clint Kelly (the “2Ks”), who along with their wives, Susan, and Missy, have financed and installed dozens of solar systems in small villages in developing countries.

As an engineer, Karl began a personal mission of installing solar in buildings serving rural communities in developing countries (Bangladesh – 2013; Zambia – 2015 and 2016; Tanzania – 2017), selecting the locations through recommendations from local connections. 

In 2018, Karl, a member of Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church, connected with WMI’s board members and offered to add solar power to buildings serving the communities where WMI works.
Olive Wolimbwa, WMI’s Local Director, requested a much-needed upgrade to the solar system at our headquarters in Buyobo, and a new installation at a church in Buyobo which hosted local meetings for the community. Karl generously provided both and traveled to Uganda to do the installation. We introduced him to our local solar engineer, Robert Bakulumpagi, who had installed our original solar system, and the two became working colleagues and fast friends (an added bonus: Robert employees a young woman technician who is an excellent role model for the youngsters who gather to watch the installations).

Subsequently, Clint became interested in Karl’s outreach mission and the first project the 2Ks teamed up on was in 2018 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, when Karl traveled to Kandale village to provide solar power to a maternity clinic and community center to eliminate the use of candles and other dangerous lighting sources. Expanding their reach through networking, in early 2019, the 2Ks financed their new colleague, Robert Bakulumpagi, to travel from Uganda to South Sudan to install solar panels at a nursing school. 

In January of 2020, WMI introduced Karl to our partner, Lewa Conservancy, and our loan program operations in northern Kenya. Karl and Sarah traveled to Lewa Conservancy under the auspices of WMI to provide solar power to a Lewa operated village clinic that serves many of the women in the loan program. At the clinic, Karl diagnosed the problem that had shut down the clinic’s large solar system - the batteries had failed. The 2Ks funded the replacement batteries and arranged for their installation.

During 2020 and 2021, the 2Ks provided funding for solar power in several churches and WMI pavilions in the Buyobo area, with Robert Bakulumpagi taking the lead role on installations. Presently, the 2Ks are supporting further solar work in the DRC, including installation of sufficient solar power to run grain grinders so that women will not have to grind by hand; a second component of this project involves providing lighting to four girls’ dormitories at a boarding school in the same village.

Clint and Karl – two guys making the world a brighter and better place because they can. 

Girl's Empowerment Through Rabbit-Rearing

Collaborating with the Gaithersburg-based non-profit Rukundo International, WMI sponsors a Girls Empowerment Program (GEP) in Southwest Uganda. We provide young pre-teens with skills training, small seed capital and support through teacher-led weekly sessions so that they can start some type of income-producing activity.

In this one-minute video, a student describes her rabbit-rearing business and how it can provide money in an emergency. Her favorite thing about the GEP: it teaches skills girls can use. 

Shifting to Camel Products in Drought-Ridden Kenya

Abdia is a new WMI borrower in the northern cluster of loan groups surrounding the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in northern Kenya. Recognizing the impact of the drought in her region, she has started a butchery business at her home where she sells camel meat, a much more climate friendly source of protein than beef or goat meat. Her plans include building a better market stall and opening a branch in Isiolo town to maximize her profits by selling in the popular marketplace there.

More than four million camels now roam Kenya’s northern pasture lands, a number that has quadrupled in the past 20 years. With severe drought conditions continuing, camels are emerging as a more sustainable livestock alternative to cows and sheep. Able to travel 100 miles without water, they can survive temperatures of 120 degrees. The popularity of camel meat and camel milk has soared in the last few years.
Busy coffee shops in downtown Nairobi, now serve "camel-cinos" and "camelattes.” The increasing environmental concerns with maintaining traditional livestock will likely continue to expand the market for camel-based products.
Meet WMI's New Loan Hub Leaders in Tanzania
This spring WMI funded the addition of new loan hubs for Maasai women living in the National Conservation Area in Tanzania in partnership the non-profit Weston Turville Wells for Tanzania, with whom we have been working for several years. Launching new loan hubs is a labor-intensive undertaking, requiring a significant amount of coordination of myriad details from transportation to making sure the local bank has enough cash on hand for us to withdraw to accomplish a loan issue! As with all WMI programs, one of the major keys to success is the dedication of the local leadership team on the ground.

We wanted to share with you the biographies of some of the new loan hub chairladies. These are strong, capable village women who have overcome challenges growing up and now want to help other women in their communities. They are terrific role models for the rural women they serve.
Nadupoi Loan Group Chairwoman
My name is Nabulu Oloju. I am 24 years old. I was born at Meshili village at Olbalbal ward in an extended family of two wives and 13 children. My primary duty was to go with other children to preschool. I went to primary school and I passed my final exam, then joined secondary school in 2010 at Loliondol, where I completed in 2013. I did not continue with school because my brother was not able to pay my school fees.

After school I engaged in business at Meshili centre then I came to Oloirobi to help my sister, then my sister shifted to Karatu to be near a school where her children learn. After that, I attended a course on hotel management for six months at Karatu. I went back to Ngoile after completion of my course. I am not married and I have two children who are boys.

My achievements are to have children and education because in Maasai society it is difficult for girls to go to school. To initiate my business and to live free after an attempt of forced marriage are also my achievements. Owning business in a male dominated society where males own everything including livestock, businesses, and money has made me famous among my community members.

My expectation in the future is to lead and support the women in our loan group, who did not have a chance to go to school, and to build up my business to support my children and myself.
Naserian Loan Group Secretary

My name is Nemali Tajiri. I am 28 years old, I was born at Olbalbal ward in a polygamy family of 8 wives and 30 children. My primary duty was to herd small goats. Then I went to preschool and then primary school at Nainokanoka, where I completed in 2010. Unfortunately, I have not passed my final primary school examination, something which created a great chance for me being married at early age.

I have been married at Ngoile and have three children now. And my duties currently are livestock-keeping and caring for my family.
My achievement is to have children and my own livestock. Being respectful among my community members made me well known.

My expectation in the future is to support my loan group as secretary because I have some education and am good with people. I will also keep on with my livestock-keeping and helping my family.
Nadupoi Loan Group Secretary 

My name is Merry Kerembu. I am 19 years old. I was born at Ngoile village in an extended family of 3 wives and 18 children. My primary duty was to fetch firewood, water and clean the house.

I went to preschool and then I joined primary school and I passed my final exam and I was selected to join secondary school where I completed in 2019. I stayed at my brother's home for a year after secondary education and later I went to college for a course on office and decoration in 2021.

I was living with my brother after the death of my parents. After completion of a course in Arusha city, I came to Karatu to help my brother to supervise his business at Karatu and learned business skills. Now I am returned to Ngoile to support our women’s loan group.

My achievement is to have skills on hair salon and decoration and experience in supervising business project. Supervising a shop in a busy bus stand has made me well known in my area.

My expectation is to support the women in our group and do business of salon or opening a shop to sell different clothes as my brother does.
Naserian Loan Group Chairwoman

My name is Naseriani Oloirusha and I am 49 years old. I was born at Malambo in a family of seven children. My father was a famous herder with a lot of cattle. My primary duty was to herd cattle, later my family shifted to Olbalbal and then Ngoile. Unfortunately, I have not gone to school because I was among the more loved children who were hidden so that the government won’t take them to school.

I have been married at Ngoile and I have 8 children. I am now engaging in livestock-keeping. My achievement is to own livestock like cows, although few, and have my children and grandchildren. Having children and cattle made me famous among my community members.

My expectation is to lead Naserian group with the support of Nemali and WMI and WTWT guidance. We will do well with our businesses and increase our livestock so that can be enough to feed our children.

WMI's 2021 Annual Report Completed

WMI’s Annual Report for 2021 is now posted on the WMI web site. We are very pleased to report that in 2021 we met the fallout from the Covid pandemic head-on. Several significant grants enabled us to fully replace 2020 Covid-related loan capital losses, which meant we did not have to contract our lending operations. Instead, WMI restructured loans for women whose businesses were severely impacted by the lockdowns, and we expanded operations by adding new loan groups to meet the increased demand for capital by rural women who wanted to start businesses.

Additionally, we continued to conduct on-going skills and management training, organized outreach to orphans and families faced with food insecurity, lead entrepreneurship training for village girls, constructed new rural loan program pavilions, retrofitted solar power onto our existing buildings, and provided leadership workshops and support for local schools and teachers. Please take a few minutes to read about what your contributions helped us accomplish last year! Annual Report

WMI is extremely grateful to our donors - you make WMI's work possible. Thank you for your thoughtfulness in supporting WMI's program to empower rural women and families in East Africa. The pandemic has created new challenges for rural businesswomen and WMI has been able to continues to provide loans, training and resources during this global crisis. Your support is truly making a difference in reducing global poverty and improving outcomes for thousands of rural households in East Africa.


The WMI Board of Directors 

 Robyn Nietert   Betsy Gordon  Deborah Smith  Jane Erickson 
   Terry Ciccotelli   Trix Vandervossen  June Kyakobye