Tags: Bangla-Pesa, Siaya, Nyanza, Lego Maria
Bangla Pesa is among the pioneer groups that started the use of Community Inclusion Currency in Kenya, as referenced by its popularity among coastal residents. During the time, communities had their own secured printed paper vouchers i.e Bangla Pesa, Ngomeni Pesa, Lindi Pesa, Gatina Pesa, Kangemi and Miyani Pesa that they used to trade their goods and services. The printed paper vouchers were in use from 2010 until 2018 when we transitioned to digital currency vouchers.
Emma Onyango during a community sensitization session in Bangladesh.
Over 65,000 households in Kenya have been using the Sarafu Network of vouchers as alternative currencies. Since May 2022, 54 different communities have created their own vouchers trading over 100,000 times using different vouchers in communities around Kenya. Bangla Pesa Group is one of these groups.
Digital Bangla Pesa was born 8th, July 2022 when the vouchers were created and deployed to a total of 24 issuing business members. Having gone through a comprehensive training programme that involved identification of their local capacity and gaps in the area, resource mapping and open discussions, the group was supported to create their own vouchers. Members had a chance of deciding on a unique name, symbol and unit to account for their voucher. They settled on Bangla Pesa as their voucher name, BANGLA as their symbol and a banana as their unit of account. 1 banana is sold at a market value of Ksh. 10 which is equivalent to 1 voucher (BANGLA). The tomato therefore is a standard measure of the value of their goods and services.
Their vouchers were then created and distributed to the issuing members by Grassroots Economics Foundation. These vouchers are backed up by goods and services committed by the members in the issuing group. They commit to redeeming the vouchers for specific amounts of goods and services.
Janet Otieno leading Bangla Pesa Group in a CIC training session.
The Bangla Pesa Group have since made a total of 512 transactions of goods and services amongst themselves and the entire Bangladesh community.They have added 11 more people to their network, bringing current wallet holders of BANGLA vouchers to 35. The community has full control over their currency given the gradual voucher expiration of 2% a month goes back to their community fund account. This has enabled them to own their own informal economy as they are able to do their own taxes for their own services. This has stimulated the circulation of the vouchers within their community.
Two months in, it is notable that the vouchers have positively impacted the community with members using the same to trade their goods and services at an average of at least 10 trades in a day.
From BANGLA to SIAYA
After getting stuck in Siaya in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Bangla-Pesa pioneers Emma and her daughter Fransiscar Achieng decided to empower the local economy of their community by introducing the concept of Sarafu. This led to the training of 3 groups; Kwe Kende, Nyalgunga and Legio Maria (church) all in Alego, Siaya County on Community Inclusion Currency and Syntropic Agroforestry (SAF). The groups were supported to start off farms using the Syntropic Agroforestry system, which brought a great impact as they were able to plant diverse crops unlike the monocropping system that they were used to. The mulching technique employed with Syntropic Agroforestry encourages retention of water in the soil, leading to crops doing well even during dry seasons.
Speaking to Angeline above from the Legio Maria church group, she had this to say, “Sarafu Network has blessed my home. I no longer miss a meal since we have vegetables in the farm throughout the seasons. I enjoy working on our farm as I am sure of putting food on the table for my family and even getting more to sell to my neighbors.”