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An Ageless Family Man, From 'Venture: A Collection of True Microfinance Stories'

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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 7: An Ageless Family Man

Most people in Mugaa village call David Kamau "Baba Joshua" or "Wajoshua," because in Kenya parents are known by the name of their first born child. Wajoshua has nine children, a number only slightly above average for a Kenyan family. As his parents' oldest living son, he is responsible for taking on the family's burdens, including caring for his parents as they grow old and raising his orphaned niece and nephew. He used to travel to his father's house by foot, but when the old man's health deteriorated Wajoshua moved his own house, carrying the roofing sheets and sticks that it had been made of to relocate his dwelling next to that of his parents.

In this area people live for a very long time, perhaps because they walk for miles and miles on hilly terrain daily and eat plenty of vegetables that they grow in their gardens. Wajoshua is 70, but he still seems as hardy and robust as a man in his 30s. His father died recently at the age of 118!

Wajoshua is employed as a gardener at the village school. He works hard to make sure that the school is running smoothly, which often requires heavy manual labor. The other day he was personally fixing one of the many atrocious roads that leads to the school, throwing heavy rocks out of the path and carrying bags of sand and gravel to replace them. I am continually amazed by how much energy he has to do these things.

I have been invited to Wajoshua's house a number of times.The first time he showed me his goats and explained to me all of the measures he takes to care for them. He told me that the goats are better quality than typical African goats because they are able to produce milk and thus generate income without being used for meat. In order to obtain such animals, Wajoshua organized with a group of farmers to collectively breed the goats, rotating males and females among the group to avoid inbreeding. Wajoshua started with just one baby female, and then added a full-grown male and another baby male as well. To keep them healthy, he must pay for their food, salts, and medicine. He also feeds them fresh vegetables, like the kale he grows in his garden. Because the baby goat gets cold at night, Wajoshua brings him inside the house to sleep.

Wajoshua is a vibrant and entertaining person. He is quite proud of himself to have his loan repayments done on time and says that he organizes himself not to be late. He used his Zidisha loan of $260 to purchase four more dairy goats, which he reared and one of them gave birth. He later sold them (save for the kid) and bought a cow. The cow recently gave birth and he now owns a calf. He intends to start producing cow milk sometime in January, which is now being sold for $0.35 per liter. In a nutshell, as far as his business and his loan repayments are concerned, Wajoshua is a comfortable man.

Wajoshua is a very social person and doesn't think much of walking seven kilometers to see a friend. He also likes to invite people over to watch his television, which he powers with a solar battery -- a common contraption in remote areas that do not have access to electricity. When I come to his house he always makes me mahindi choma (salty roasted maize), which is sort of like popcorn for Kenyan families. His kids watch the television with us, an exercise Wajoshua says helps them improve their English. After I leave they begin studying, using lamps powered by the solar battery. As the family values education, many of the children are at the top of their classes.

David's Words:

I completed my primary school education in 1964. I am married and have nine children and the last born is in form one at Mugaa Secondary School. In addition, I have custody of my orphaned nephew and niece who are in class three and four respectively. I work at Mugaa Secondary School. I am also a mixed farmer, growing maize, beans and potatoes. Also rear dairy goats, beef cattle.

My main business is keeping of the dairy goats, which are expensive to rear. I buy them food daily from the shop,dairy salt and also medicine to keep them free from round worms... Apart from this I also buy traditional food such as Kikuyu potato leaves. The goats produces young ones twice a year. During that time I milk them and sell the milk to my neighbors and when it produces a male kid I sell it at about Ksh5,000 [$62] or more.

You may view the latest news and photos of David's business at his Zidisha Microfinance profile page.

From Chapter 7 of Venture: A Collection of True Microfinance Stories by Zidisha Microfinance.

Next time: The story of a relentlessly upbeat cancer survivor who launched a business and supported two kids on $1.58 per day...