To be honest, 2013 has been a great year. Sometimes I forget about what we accomplish when being so much involved and taking into account the ressources available. So when I look back at the year 2013, I think it has been a great year. Some might think otherwise depending on one’s criteria for success.
When defining success, I compare actions and impact made with the ressources available. In that perspective, we have come really far and are on the right track. Both for Momentum Trust (MT) and for Momentum Business & Development (MBD).
When I look at the year gone by, what really pops to mind as great achievements are;
1: We are now based in Kenya which for me was absolutely critical in order to achieve transparency and scalability which leads to sustainability.
2: We have established a Kenyan Company – Momentum Business & Development – with the mission of empowering farmers and engaging in agribusiness projects. MBD is now operational and we reached our objective of mobilizing and training 10 Momentum groups in business skill training and best practices in farming and give our farmers access to seeds and fertilizers as a loan. It is incredibly fulfilling to have started MBD and to be on the ground, get dirty and do practical work with our farmers. It is amazing to experience the energy and commitment from the farmers and the willingness to be part of Momentum. The work with MBD and the farmers have truly been the greatest satisfaction in 2013 for me personally.
3: We have organized an office with a small team of 5 employees in Siaya area. For a long term impact we believe it is necessary to live close to the farmers we work with. It is a long term partnership between Momentum and the farmers. It indicates seriousness and commitment from our side and builds trust to our farmers and local stakeholders. Our local team are all Luo (third largest tribe in Kenya) who are all from the area and can speak to our farmers in the local language which is very important.
3: We have maintained an amazing team who truly sacrifice for our cause since we do not have the means for decent salaries “yet”. The team believes in our mission and without the team, we would be nothing.
4: Lisa came to Kenya in October to be Area Manager of MBD in Siaya which is without a doubt not an easy task, and in an environment unfamiliar to what she is used to from the US and Denmark. She has exceeded all expectations. She has been able to implement our work and objectives in Siaya of working with 10 groups before the end of the year. WeÃÃÂ reached 11 groups which accounts to approximately 200 families/farmers. In 2014 we will multiply that with 10 if our capacity allows.
5: On the Momentum Trust side we have given loans to an additional 19 entrepreneurs to support their businesses. 19 is below our objective but capacity and challenges along the way has made progress slower than expected. But the fact that we have a repayment rate of 100 % is a great accomplishment and shows me that we are on the right track in terms of how we operate.
6: Most importantly, for us to accomplish our mission, we need good partnerships.This year we started some great partnerships and have obtained support from the local government entities who have given us green light to work in the county and also appreciate our focus on food security and the youth in Siaya. It is fantastic to get that support and know that our focus is highly valued and in alignment with the focus of the local government in Siaya. Our focus on access to affordable financial services (MT), food security and agribusiness (MBD) has given us some amazing partnerships with great companies and organizations with some great projects in the pipeline for the year 2014.
Some bumps along the way
For sure there has been some bumps along the way. Both work related and personal. I will stick to the work related issues.
Cuture-wise, Denmark and Kenya are very far from each other. And of course this also translates to the way people work and communicate. So along the way there has been some challenges where it is has been necessary for us to slow down and get a common understanding for the team to work effectivly. This has also been rewarding since it has improved our way of working in Kenya and taught us that it is essential to understand the local culture in order to have success with our work here.
Generally, the work with our partners have been good. However, we had to stop with one partner because we did not get the information we needed in order to deliver the transparency we strive to give our lenders and members. We are aware of the fact that our partners have never operated with an organization like Momentum Trust. So we know it is a new concept for them and the partnership has to be well-defined from the beginning so that is gets easier working together along he way. This is also the reason for our fairly low number of loans given since we started in 2012. We work gradually to make sure that the business concept is in place and our partners deliver what is expected of them. We are still a very young and fragile organization and we cannot afford to have to many failures. But I would still say that Momentum Trust has not scaled as much as I wished for in the beginning of the year. Both in terms of the people benefitting from our loans but also in terms of creating awareness in Denmark and get more lenders and members. Our loans have generally been funded to slowly. Our goal is to have the loans funded within two weeks. Now we have to rejct bigger loan requests because it would take to long time to fund on our website. This has to be improved in 2014 and I am sure it will.
Sometimes my visions and stubborness can be quite expensive. Someone told me “you should stick to what you know”. Actually it was my wife who said that. Making a music festival is not something I know. I was convinced that Adia Festival would be a great success; success in terms of generating money for our projects in Kenya and Uganda. It turned out to be the opposite. Even though the actual event was great and we had amazing musicians at the festival, we did not accomplish to get sufficient number of people to the event. That was unfortunate but of course also a good learning experience for the future. I would like to thank the team involved in creating the festival. They did an amazing job on difficult terms.
All in all the year 2013 has been rewarding. Our focus on agriculture, entrepreneurship, the youth, and access to financial services are seriously needed. We have reached far and we keep learning as we move along. It is our task to use that knowledge we gain to our advantage so the partnerships with our farmers, partners, members, and lenders continously improve.
Have a wonderful Christmas and a fantastic New Year.