“Since 2016 when I started my chicken business, I did not formally keep records of my income, costs and profit. I made losses without even noticing it”, explains Margaret Mwendi, a chicken rearing entrepreneur from Kitui County in Kenya. Margaret explains a common situation among rural women-led businesses, as most women entrepreneurs do not consider record keeping as key to their business growth. Limited record keeping limits women entrepreneurs to plan to avoid losses and to tap into opportunities that arise for SMEs in Kenya to access credit as their profitable prospects is undetermined.
Financial literacy and record keeping training
As part of the ‘Enhancing Opportunities for Women’s Enterprises’ (EOWE) programme over the past two years, SNV has been training and guiding 5,453 rural women entrepreneurs on record keeping of their income and expenses. The programme has developed an individual record keeping tool consisting of three forms. The first form focuses on recording the income generated from a specific commodity or value chain on a monthly basis, with a breakdown to weekly income. The second form support women entrepreneurs to document their expenses on a weekly and monthly basis, for example on labour, transport, loan repayments, inputs, equipment and treatment. The final form focuses on group membership status and documents the money that the women receive through these memberships. Many rural women are for example part of micro-saving schemes, like merry go round groups or table banking.
Sustainable economic change in women’s groups
The record keeping form presents an opportunity for administering both individual and group records. The latter is for a scenario where the members of a group jointly sell their commodities as a group to leverage their position in terms of quantity they can supply to an interested buyer. “Selling commodities as a group is easy, but when the money is earned, it becomes difficult to keep count”, says a member from the Nkuruto women group in Samburu County. “Through the record keeping training and forms given to us by the EOWE programme, our group is now more accountable and transparent. Our records have helped us track our production levels and put more effort to increase productivity.”
These groups integrate business performance assessments, based on their records, in their weekly group meetings. Improved record keeping enabled the women’s groups to maximise profits and set targets for their businesses. Weekly records have streamlined their focus on where to put more investments. Women have embraced record keeping and are each other’s keeper. Group leadership has been enhanced to ensure the majority of group members who cannot read and write are assisted. Increasing women’s record keeping capacity and promoting it as a core component in their business, both at individual and at group level, ensures sustainable economic change in the groups that the programme supports.
Women attending record-keeping training in Kitui County
Opening doors to credit
The enhanced bookkeeping practices in their businesses also provided women groups the opportunity to access productive assets from county governments and affirmative action funds from the National Government. The women entrepreneurs are now able to show that they run viable businesses with regular income and meet the criteria to receive productive assets or affirmative action from the Government. EOWE beneficiaries have already been able to improve their record keeping using the new tools and have realised access to credit and government productive business assets. With these assets and funds they are able to expand their businesses and grow steadily and sustainably.