Mutual support for micro entrepreneurs

The Swiss Re Foundation empowers communities to become more resilient. The initiatives we support address both the causes and the effects of risks in our focus areas of climate, society, natural hazards, and water. We are convinced that innovative, business-minded solutions can address challenges to resilience in these areas effectively and provide long-term responses. In 2017, we expanded our roster of such projects and saw promising results from entrepreneurial projects launched earlier.

In 2016, the Swiss Re Foundation teamed up with Hand in Hand to help poor families in the county of Kitui, in south eastern Kenya, improve their income resilience by becoming micro-entrepreneurs. The effects of climate change and rapid population growth have hit Kitui hard.

The roughly 60% of families in Kitui who live in poverty earn nearly all their income from farming – usually small-scale and rain-fed – rather than paid work. This leaves them particularly vulnerable to environmental degradation and natural catastrophes such as droughts. It is not unusual for a poor family in Kitui to spend half its income on food, so even small fluctuations in food prices can have a large impact on well-being.

With the support of the Swiss Re Foundation, Hand in Hand is offering people in a poor community in Kitui, most of them women, a flexible suite of services to build their own micro-enterprises. These services include support in setting up Self-Help Groups, business training and access to larger markets and micro-credit when needed. Self-Help Group members learn and save together and help one another build their businesses to diversify family income. By the end of 2017, the project had already attracted 1 402 participants and created 841 jobs in Kitui.

By September 2019, Hand in Hand aims to have helped a total of 2 400 people start their own micro-enterprises, at least 500 of them in the “green” sector.