Preparing to Launch with the World Food Programme

By Joyce Kamau

Tags: Kitui, Kenya, WFP, launch, training

Kitui East is a semi-arid region located in the Eastern part of Kenya. Some of the economic activities done by locals include livestock keeping, beekeeping, farming and commercial business, labor activities such as collection of firewood, door to door laundry services, brick making, trench digging, fencing, etc.


These communities have been facing challenges due to the scarcity of Kenyan shilling, hence many families are forced to forgo meals or receive a reduced quantity and quality; the adverse effect has also shown cases of malnutrition in children.

Water is also a challenge since locals have to trek for long distances to get water. Communities have also found themselves having accumulative debts which keep people lagging behind economically and, in the worst scenarios, create divisions in communities.

Grassroots Economics, in collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP), is currently running a pilot programme on Community Inclusion Currencies (CIC) in Kitui East. CIC aims to create and circulate local credit systems complementary to national currency using tokenized agreements known as “Sarafu”. Sarafu-Network is a grassroots platform that enables communities to develop their own vouchers redeemable as payment for their own goods and services and as a general medium of exchanges to support the community when the national currency is scarce — to help create strong and resilient communities.

Sarafu-Network was introduced in Kitui East sub-county through an inception meeting attended by county stakeholders such as local chiefs, county commissioners, representatives from the ministry of agriculture, WFP and and humanitarian organizations on the ground. Initial training has begun in 4 wards in Kitui East: Zombe/mwitika, Mutitu/kaliku, Endau/malalani, Voo/kyamatu.

Through demonstration games and the usage of Sarafu (a free voucher created by Grassroots Economics on Sarafu-Network), community members have practically gained first hand experience of how they can use the CIC within their community to trade essential goods and services they all offer.

In Kitui East, these communities have established groups consisting of about 15-25 members who come together to do table banking and other activities that support one another, e.g, farming. Since the introduction of Sarafu-Network in Kitui, members have made their meeting days better by creating a market where each individual carries goods/services which they sell or buy and pays partly using Sarafu. At the end of the day. everyone goes back home happy with something they can feed their families whilst reducing debt baggage. Above is a photo of the Great vision group with samples of goods they carried to trade during their meeting day.


Above is a photo of the Great vision group with samples of goods they carried to trade during their meeting day.

These groups are practicing and developing ways similar to ancient practices in order to share and trade their resources among each other fairly even when the national currency is scarce. They are currently in the process of creating their own vouchers which will be backed by goods and services each member commits. We are really excited to learn how people in Kitui East will own and utilize these tools.


Another success story is from Mr Richard Matibo, posho mill owner and a member of the Great Vision group. He is happy to have attended two Sarafu-Network training sessions and gained lots of knowledge. As part of the training period, currently Mr Richard’s milling charges are 10 Sarafu for 1kg millet and 5 Sarafu for 1kg of maize; the rest of the balance can be paid in KSH.

Braiding doesn't stop there; Mr. Matibo’s network includes, for example:

  • Kavutha Nzuki - a hotel owner who is still a member of Great Vision. She accepts Sarafu payments for tea, chapati and other food items.
  • Christine, a grocer and a member of Great Vision is also part of Mr Richard’s network.

Everyone from this network knows the importance of setting limits on how much Sarafu they can receive and spend on a daily basis. Other community members have gained interest and chama members are continuing to create awareness about the creation of vouchers.

These are just some of the stories from Kitui - Voo ward. There is more happening in other parts of the sub-county. We are happy for the few months we have been working in Kitui empowering communities to exchange goods and services and build their local markets