James Momanyi @jamomanyi
For most people Sh4,000 is not much. For an average middle class Kenyan, Sh4,000 is not even enough to cater for lunch for two at a two-star hotel. However, for 90-year-old James Kamau Chege and 71-year-old Pauline Bosibori Sendeu, two of the over 310,000 elderly citizens currently receiving Old Persons Cash Transfers (OPCT) payments, the bi-monthly Sh4,000, (Sh2,000 for each month) makes the difference between living in abject poverty and living decently in the sunset years.
Grass to grace For 48-year-old Mary Waithera Kamau who has been receiving the same amount since 2010 under the Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) programme after she took custody of her sister’s orphaned daughter, little savings of the cash transfer and diligent investment is now earning her an average Sh40,000 a month.
The story of the three beneficiaries of the cash transfer programme, popularly known as Inua Jamii, reads like a grass to grace shift in livelihood. Waithera used to break rocks into ballast with her husband at a nearby quarry in Mithuri village, Kabatia area of Naivasha.
One day, officials from the ministry of Labour visited their village and inquired whether there was anyone living with an orphan. “Since I was living with my sister’s daughter who was orphaned at the age of three, I and four others, were given forms to fill. We were told we would start receiving money from the government to help us bring up the orphans and take them to school,” Waithera told People Daily.
A few months after filling the forms, they started receiving Sh3,000 every two months before the amount was later increased to Sh4,000.
“At first, I would not believe it because this was a lot of money. At the quarry, on a good day, we would make three wheelbarrow of kokoto (ballast) with my husband and earn a paltry Sh120.
The money was too little to buy food and take children to school. Life for us was hard,” she said.
The money was godsend, because after the third round of payment, Waithera and four other beneficiaries from Mithuri village decided to contribute Sh500 each from the bi-monthly payout and invested in poultry keeping. With the first Sh2,500, they bought two young hens and cockerel for each member. When the hens began laying eggs a few weeks later, Waithera would collect about 10 eggs every week. She sold some of the eggs while the family consumed the rest.
Their contributions continued to grow and in a few months, the money was enough to buy a dairy goat for each of the members. They later bought sheep. After a two years, the group had stabilised financially, thanks the money from the sell of eggs and milk. They decided to pool the Sh4,000 each received, raising Sh20,000.
They sold some of the goats and sheep, which by then had multiplied and bought a dairy heifer for each member. That was in 2014. The dairy goats and sheep multiplied fast and at one time she had more than 30. She sold some of the animals and chicken and used the proceeds to add a mature cow to her stock.
From sheer resilience, Waithera’s routine saving and investment plan has borne infinite returns. From the two cows, she gets 20 litres everyday which fetches Sh1,000. From the two dairy goats she gets three litres a day and sells two litres at Sh300.
The poultry business has also been a good source of income. She collects two crates of eggs every week, which fetches her some Sh900. “On average from the cows, goats and chicken I get about Sh40,000, excluding what we consume. In some months it’s more because I sometimes sell the cockerels and kids when their numbers become unmanageable.”