By Jon Hargreaves
There is an old proverb that says, "Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” At HCR we’ve come to realise that if we really want to help alleviate poverty, we need to go even further - we need to teach people to start “fishing businesses”, so they can feed themselves, their families and their communities, for all time.
To that end, in partnership with Aid For Trade and supported by the Andrews Charitable Trust, we recently launched the YES (Young Entrepreneurs’ Startup) project, in an area of eastern Kenya’s Tana River County, where poverty is widespread. Using the newly established radio station, Amani FM, the project involves an innovative mix of creative radio programmes, live ‘phone-in discussions, social media interaction and workshops to encourage local people, irrespective of their education, to develop their business ideas and then put them into action. By the end of the workshops, budding entrepreneurs will be able to develop business plans, the best of which will be eligible for low-interest loans. As the resulting businesses get going, the radio station will closely follow the development of these enterprises, encouraging new would-be entrepreneurs to have a go.
“We are now up to programme seven on the radio, and beginning to help workshop participants develop their business plans,” says project leader, Philip Amara, adding that already many great business ideas are being generated. Philip says the radio programmes ‘Tuanze Biashara’, which is Swahili for “We Start a Business”, have been well-received by the community and generated a very lively response across the region. There is also a very active WhatsApp group with around 45 participants who share ideas, encourage each other and respond to the things they are learning. “Just today,” says Philip, “a group has announced their plans to set up a modern butchery in the town of Garsen, which is a real need in the area.” In this region of high unemployment, Philip is confident that the project will stimulate new wealth in the area and begin to break the mindset of poverty and dependency on aid.
Although extreme global poverty has been cut by more than half since 1990, sub-Saharan Africa is lagging behind with over 40% of people still living in absolute poverty. Our dream is to extend the YES project to other parts of Kenya and the Swahili-speaking world, to make a sustainable contribution to ending poverty among some of the world’s most disadvantaged communities, enabling people to enjoy the fullness of life for which they were created.