Jane Njeri Mwangi, Kenya
Jane Ngeri Mwangi was the first lady to take a loan from the Gatunguru Trust Group in Thika, Kenya. This was in 2009, when the group had around 50 members. Since then they've expanded dramatically to over 450 members.
Following Five Talents business training, and having saved hard for an extended period, Jane had the confidence to borrow the substantial sum of 34,000 KSh (Kenya Shillings), about £210, to buy her cow, which she promptly christened Micro.
That made us smile too!
Since then, Micro has had 4 calves. Jane has sold 3 of them at 30,000 KSh each. The remaining calf has, of course, been christened (yes, you guessed it) Micro Baby.
Not only has Jane made a profit from breeding, but she now has a regular weekly income through selling milk to her local dairy. At first, Jane could only sell 1 or 2 litres of milk to middlemen but now Micro is such a good milker she can sell in bulk directly to the dairy. She's also expanded into poultry and egg production in partnership with her sister; and they've even co-opted mum, Cho-Cho, into the family venture.
Cho-Cho is a tiny, wizened lady of indeterminate age who displays a strength and endurance belying her fragile frame. Like her daughter Jane, Cho-Cho is quick to laughter. When we met, she was on her way to feed the goats, dwarfed by the full basket of greenery she was carrying, strung across her shoulders and secured with the traditional head harness used for moving heavy loads.
Cho-Cho was clearly a little embarrassed by our attention and slightly bemused by all the fuss. As we stood there in a drizzle of warm rain under a heavily overcast sky, her birdlike laughter, together with Jane's full-throated chortle, was highly infectious and left me with a positive glow. Cho-Cho then turned and picked her way, barefoot, down a slippery path, turning back just once to click her tongue at us in amusement.
Jane has three surviving daughters and a son who lives with his wife on the neighbouring plot. What's striking is how resourceful this family is and how, with just a little guidance, they've been able to take charge of their own futures. It's the same lesson wherever you look.
With one loan Jane bought a machine to chop the local vegetation that mum gathers to provide food for her cows. This saves her a lot of time as well as money. And from the flourishing chicken coop, Jane gathers floor scrapings to make animal feed and manure which she then sells. In all the family employ four helpers thus spreading the economic benefit into the local community.
So, what next for Jane?
It's no surprise to hear Jane has more plans for the future.
The family compound sits on a verdant hillside with rolling tea plantations stretched out below. This elevated tropical region (near to the equator) is highly fertile, with volcanic red soils and plentiful rainfall interspersed with long sunny days. In short, a perfect climate for producing quality tea. No surprise then that Jane's latest embryonic venture is tea farming. She's started with the most popular black tea but is already thinking of moving on to other varieties.
In all, Jane has taken 8 loans now. The last was 150,000 KSh, a sum which she could hardly have dreamed of 6 years ago. Belonging to the Gatunguru Trust Group has certainly paid dividends for Jane and her family. Asked how the loans and ongoing business guidance have changed her life, she thought for a moment before replying,
"At first, I used the increased profits to pay school fees. Then I improved my home." Then she smiled, adding, "And now, I have even bought a pick-up truck."
This account and all of the photos of Jane Njeri Mwangi were collected by Rob Spencer during a trip in July 2015. All photos copyright Rob Spencer.