Saturday, 11 November 2017

Kenya - Day 4 - Kericho micro finance projects

‘Sawa sawa’ -  Everything is good

So we arrived at the tea plantations late last night in the dark. Kericho is a gem and nestled in the Lake Victoria basin and the reason why the tea fields are so lush and green.

Martin (Yelling, from Marathon Talk) had planned a run with Bernard Rotich, the local 2.06 marathoner who has many other accolades. He is due to run in Dublin in a couple of weeks and is aiming for a win in 2.10ish on the hilly course (he ended up winning in 2.15 and picking up his annual salary in the process).  I had the luxury of chatting with him for a long period of the run and even had breakfast with him and Tommy post run too, so we got to know him quite well. More on that later.

There were a bunch of mixed abilities and so the pace was dead slow as we headed right out of the hotel complex before turning right once again into the carpeted tea leaf fields and onto the reddy brown dirt path.

At the brow of the first hill we stopped for photo opportunities before a few of us ran on with Bernard following our tracks back. 

At the furthest point we bumped into 20 or so school kids who ran along side. I (as I always do) try to talk as much as possible and in doing so met another Faith and Kipkuri. Both replied with a ‘very wonderful’ when I asked them how they were. Ended up with c. 9kms dead slow.

School kids joining in:

Back at the hotel, Tommy and I chatted more with Bernard and swapped contact details and said if he was ever passing through London he should look me up. 

Stuff I learned:

- He trains 200km a week

- There are 150 in the Kericho group alone, a rival running centre to Iten, ‘A town full of runners’. Both sets of runners are basically from the same Kalenji tribe who reap the rewards of the altitude and their unique ankle and calf compositions

- There are approximately 30 near or at his level in Kericho alone

- He eats rice for lunch and Igali (corn / maze) for dinner given maze is a slow releasing carbohydrate

- He runs twice a day (sometimes 3 times) and his group do weekly track sessions. Today we ran passed runners heading the other way who were on route to their track session (would love to see this live)

- Today’s session was 16 x 600ms (noting the 2,000m altitude)

- the only income he has is through prize money - it’s a lottery - he’s just seen the start list for Dublin and there are 2 unknown runners from north of here who are potential threats to his much needed first place prize money 

- That’s why he targets the second tier marathons like Dublin.  For London he would not even get on the start list

- His agent Malcolm Anderson takes 20% and takes out his travel expenses and so he’s not left with an awful lot

- guessing the winner in Dublin will pick up 12k max and so he will have 9k and change when done and back on his flight back home

- He recently pace maked the Cardiff Half picking up £500 in the process - a nice little earner! Small fry for us westerners but a fair bit when you consider most Kenyans live off £2,50 a day

- I cannot comprehend the pressure these guys are under when these few focal points decide the livelihood for him and his fledgling family (he has 2 small children)

- His off season weight is 60 vs his current racing weight of 56

- I joked with him that I’d run 2.25 if I dropped 20kgs from my current 80kg

- during the run he did not heel strike once. He pointed to Paul Tanui’s house who bronzed I think in the recent WC 10,000 final which J and I witnessed live

The highlight of the breakfast, the sweet bananas which are a speciality here in Kenya. They look like European bananas but are just smaller and a damn sight sweeter!

After brekkie had a chat with a Martin Y - I asked him re his wife who was in 2.26 shape pre the Beijing Olympics but fell during the race and broke a rib still finishing in 2.30 with the winner in 2.27. She had been running 69 half’s in training.  Crazy quick.

Post brekkie we drove the circa 1 hour to the Rhino group community trust started by 5 Talents. They are circa 10 months in and have saved around £500, a fair sum for them.

Driving past the school kids on route to the Rhino Group:
A little re what the micro finance group stands for and what I learned:

- the ethos of the community groups is to empower themselves financially
- 5 Talents provides the infrastructure and training to the groups 
- it targets the rural communities who tend to be the worst off. I agree with the approach, it has to be this way. Public transport is extortionate in Kenya and so the rural communities have had little or no exposure to the neighbouring towns. Sue gave the example that in order to physically bank the equity savings in a physical bank in a nearby town, it costs a grossly disproportionate amount of their weekly wages. Pretty sure Sue mentioned an amount akin to £625 based on the mean GDP of a UK citizen
- it’s all about transformation for the local community through economic engagement 
- the interest rate of the loans is usually around 1% monthly 
- the Rhino group will only start administering loans when they have scale to provide multiple loans otherwise deemed inequitable 
- 5 Talents approach to micro finance is the right one and different to most others in that they do not provide the money for the loans but rather the infrastructure such as Emmi the local coordinator and training
- the thinking being that by the locals saving themselves they will take more responsibility and be more astute with the investments they are making 
- the local community trust are the sole decision makers for which loans they administer
- it has to be this way ie that the local group have full control in order for the scheme to be sustainable  
- the flip side is that the schemes tend to be initially slow pedalling as they need to time to save
- once the scale is there, the community trust members can borrow up to 3x their equity saved
- to reiterate the trust members themselves decide who gets what - they are 100% empowered 
- the tenure of the loans tends to be 6-12 months. The 1% per month (vs a 2% fixed UK mortgage rate per annum) is set by each trust (which can change) in order to incentivise the borrowers to repay
- interest payments are paid out as dividends to the equity (savers) holders 
- during the Rhino talk the locals were asked how they would use the loans? 
- one good example was that of a lady who held her hand up and said she would use the money to start supplying soap to the local schools. In the PM session, the ladies said they would use to start businesses to sell tomatoes, corn and chilly
- later Sue gave an excellent example of a lady in another community who used the loan to firstly buy petrol so that the local motorcyclists would not have to ride to the neighbouring towns. She quickly repaid that loan and took out another to build an underground petrol container with an orthodox pump. Again she quickly recycled the loan by adding more pumps. Next up for her is a diesel pump to target all the passing lorries. This is a fantastic emample re how the 5 Talents micro finance has empowered a local community to help transform it
- important that communities do not lend to each other otherwise it will create leverage on leverage - the same dire situation as per the 2008 global financial crisis

In the PM we went to a local a ‘priveledged’ catholic school. This was probably my least favourite part of the trip. We were here because Emmi’s 13 year old son attends the school and visited his classroom.  We were allowed to ask questions and so I asked who walks the furthest to school? The answer was only 2k. This was particulaly telling for me as guessing were you to ask the same question to one of the 99% of other rural schools the answer would be more like a 15k round trip. Safe to say that none of these priveledged few will be runners in fact next year they are all being shipped off to boarding schools in Mombasa and Nairobi.

My running theory: am guessing there is a high correlation between successful Kenyan athletes versus how far they were forced to travel on foot as children!

The second half of the afternoon we visited another rural community trust called the St Marks Lions trust. Held at the village church they had been waiting since 2pm and we only arrived gone 5.30. Despite the wait we were greeted with jubilant songs from the women and children as we had at the Rhino trust.

It was another mind boggling experience as we all congregated in the church as the rain pelted down outside. The respective members again got up and made their speeches with the main themes being:

1. The immense gratitude for the micro finance platform
2. The immense gratitude for us visiting 
2. And for the elderly population that this was the most important day of their lives - this was incredibly humbling. 

Emmi made a poignant point which resonated with me:

‘If want to go first go alone, if you want to go far go with people.’

As the speeches were taking place I pointed my camera to the numerous kids who had gathered outside of the packed church and who were peering through the windows. They were weary of my 300mm lenses and ducked whenever I pointed in their direction. As the afternoon wore on and as I showed them the pictures on my camera they then began to understand what this peculiar thing was I was pointing in their direction.

Tommy took the whole experience in his stride, chatting with all of the kids and high-fiving them including the elderly folk. Again he was centre of attention with the kids wanting as much of him as possible.

The greeting from St Marks

The farewell :(

Bernard Rotich (Dublin Marathon 2017 winner) and I:

Martin Yelling (MY) and Bernard

2.30 Macca man and Bernard (Macca is old running buddies with the old Sydney crew and got on famously with him):

Kiddiewinks on route:

Faith and Kipkuri:

The sweet bananas:

T and Bernard post eating brekkie together:

On route to the Rhino community trust:

The Rhino welcome:

Emi and superstar Rachel in the backgound:

One of the elder statesmen -  this woman was impressive:

St Marks Community Trust:

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