Table banking starts with the same two dozen women. Only this time they put their contribution into a communal pot, literally "on the table." The money gets "loaned" back out with "interest" to those women who want to put the money to work with a simple, income generating idea of their choosing. I use loan in quotes because it's the women's money, not some outside bank. And the "interest" they pay they pay to themselves, growing the size of the collective pot.
The money gets put to use in whatever way the women choose. Initially it might be to add an egg-laying chicken to their flock. But as each month goes by, the pot compounds, the size of loan grows, and the projects become more impressive.
On Friday we took a day trip to Eldoret in western Kenya to see one of the more successful organizations running this program, the Joyful Women Organization. Started in 2009 with a handful of groups, the program has grown to 431 groups and 10,000 women who have accumulated a total of over 100,000,000 Kenyan shillings or over $1 million which they put to work in a wide variety of income generating projects.
We visited one of the more successful groups who have accumulated over $15,000. We visited a green house growing tomatoes, a farm with a large field of cabbages, a tree nursery and an orchard of passion fruit trees. All owned and run by the women, producing income which they use for family needs, children's school fees, etc., etc.
The income generating potential of these projects can be very impressive. One woman had taken out a longer term loan to invest in several milk goats at a cost of 45,000 Kenyan shillings or about $525. She milks the goats twice a day. She sells the morning milking - usually 3-4 liters at 100 shillings per liter - and keeps the afternoon milking for family use. That works out to about $1,500 of revenue per year. Subtract a bit for expenses (feed is essentially free) and she still makes over a 200% return on her investment!! (What are you making on your investments these days?)
The women we talked to were incredibly energized by the program. And we were pleasantly surprised to find the men highly supportive as well. There's no question that attitudes about women's role in society are changing rapidly and in a very positive way.
We were impressed with what we saw in Eldoret. And we'll be doing some further due diligence on the concept with the possibility of adding the Joyful Women Organization to Eliminate Poverty Now's expanding list of partners.