04/12/2013 05:14 pm ET Updated Jun 12, 2013

"A Bountiful Harvest," From 'Venture: A Collection of True Microfinance Stories'

Venture is a rich and readable collection of true microfinance stories. It is written for anyone who would like to better understand the realities faced by the the aspiring middle class in the world's least developed countries, the range of factors that affect their prospects for working their way out of poverty, and how microfinance can impact their lives.

The entrepreneurs featured in this book are all members of Zidisha Microfinance, a web-based crowdfunding platform that allows low-income, computer-savvy entrepreneurs in developing countries to share their stories and negotiate microloans directly with individual lenders. As the world's first person-to-person lending service to eliminate intermediaries and connect individual web users and entrepreneurs across the international wealth divide, Zidisha is uniquely positioned to offer an undistorted depiction of the variety of individual stories and circumstances that come to play each time a microfinance loan is disbursed.

Each story paints an unforgettable picture: A 70-year-old goat farmer who relocates his home to better care for his ailing father, carrying the sticks and metal sheeting it was made from across the mountains on his back. A plump, beaming detergent saleslady who lives in a home no larger than an ordinary bathroom but has adopted five orphans. A cancer survivor who supports herself and two children by pounding millet for $1.58 per day. An irrepressible lady who supplies half of her neighborhood with much-needed IVs and other medical supplies by day, and by night checks into the local cybercafe to chat with Facebook friends on the other side of the world. A young man who has no arms but insists on working to support his able-bodied parents out of filial duty. An accounting student who pays for his university tuition by purchasing a taxi and splitting proceeds with a hired driver. A bright young lady who renounces college to care for her orphaned siblings and overcomes gender stereotypes to launch a thriving construction business.

At its heart, "Venture" is a tribute to the remarkable community of Zidisha Microfinance entrepreneurs and countless others like them -- a tribute to their grit, ambition and indomitable spirit in the face of overwhelming obstacles. We hope this book will help translate the statistics about poverty and the opportunities afforded by microfinance into human terms, and inspire readers to reach out and connect with their counterparts on the other side of the international wealth divide.

Story 27: A Bountiful Harvest

Today, I had a meeting with Leah Muniu and she showed me the path to her maize and wheat fields.

I meet Leah in Karunga village, Kenya during a meeting organized by current Zidisha borrowers to present the organization to future members. It was wonderful to see how enthusiastic she was about Zidisha. She explained me that people like her never go to banks because of the high interest rates and because of the collateral assets that are required in order to secure a loan. She even told me, "I prefer to stay poor than to go to these banks." She is also grateful to Zidisha because it has been for her an "eye opener" to the rest of the world. It pushes her to learn how to use computers and interact with people outside her community.

Leah owns five hectares of land which she inherited from her parents, and she is renting three additional hectares from another villager. In February, after having paid the school fees of her three children, she lacked the money to buy seeds for her fields. She was planning to rent her fields to other farms in order to earn at least a small profit. But then, in March, she raised a loan of $600 from Zidisha, and things changed: she was able to buy maize and wheat seeds for all eight hectares.

The crops have grown well since then. The harvest season should start in October and we calculated that her profit should be approximately $535 in only six months. This profit almost equals the amount of the loan she took. The increased revenue and access to additional Zidisha capital is very encouraging for the future of Leah's farming business.

Regarding the future, Leah hopes that she will be able to buy enough fertilizer for all her fields. This year she didn't have the money to buy enough of it, so the yield of her fields is not optimal.

It was a real pleasure to spend a few hours in Leah's company; she is a very smiling and lively person. At the end of the meeting, she offered me a delicious Kenyan tea prepared with fresh tea leaves and milk from her own cow.

Leah's Words:

I am a married lady with three sons. The second born is joining the college to take a plant operator course in February 2012. The last born is fifteen years [old] in form one [first year of secondary school] at Kijabe Boys High School...

I do farming business where I keep dairy cows. I get KSH 6,000 [$75] per month from the income of milk, which is KSH 72,000 [$900] per year. I also grow cereals like maize and wheat. From wheat I get about KSH 300 000 [$3,750; before costs] per year and from maize I get about KSH 200 000 [$2,500] so the total annual income from my business is KSH 600,000 [$7,500].

You may view more comments and photos at Leah's Zidisha Microfinance profile page.

From Chapter 27 of Venture: A Collection of True Microfinance Stories by Zidisha Microfinance.

Next time:Meet the entrepreneur who named a hardware store "God Has Extended My Territories"...

Subscribe to Must Reads.
The internet's best stories, and interviews with their authors.