Mwangaza Trust is a family non profit organizations, born in 2011 and registered in Kenya as a LBG Company, working to empower and transform the life conditions of the most vulnerables in Africa. “Mwangaza” in Swahili means “light”, a representative concept of the change the trust founders want to bring in the region.
We discussed with Consolata Gituto, co-founder and managing trustee of the Mwangaza Trust, named in 2013 in the “50 most successful and influential business people” in Kenya. In our interview we went deeper in the characteristics and trends of the African philanthropic sector, and we can exclusively release the launch of the Kenya Philanthropy Association.
Madame Consolata, it would be so nice to hear the story of your foundation.
My husband and i had the chance to go to school and to study until the end of the university, but this is not the common situation for many people in Kenya. So we started our philanthropic activity by addressing this issue and trying to connect to people in our communities in order to answer to our local needs.
In September 2011 we started the process to legally register our organization in Kenya and one year later we officially started our activities. We chose the legal form of a trust because we believe that this is the best way for our family to be able to give to non profit, since we also have a private company.
How did you choose the sectors of your intervention and how do you measure the social impact of your activity?
We started looking at the needs of our community. There are a lot of needs here but in our opinion education was the first so, after some consultations with the opinion leaders in the community, we started the first program to support education. Until now Mwangaza Trust has provided 145 scholarships for needy students to access education at secondary, college and university levels. In addition, all Mwangaza sponsored students are taken through systematic mentorship, counselling and spiritual nurture programs. The goal is to empower the students with holistic life skills that enable them to cope with the challenges of current times and create Christ centered leaders. The 47% of the budget of Mwangaza is dedicated to the issue of education.
Then we decided to run “demonstration farms”. That’s the case of the onion farming project in Nanyuki. We selected onions because of the aridity of the area and, thanks to a partnership with Farm Concern International, we were able to apply the “Commercial Village” model, a concept that has been implemented successfully in other parts of the country and Africa at large, providing financial and agricultural training. Thanks to this program the farmers moved from earning 10 dollars per ½ acre per season to earning up to 700 dollars Mwangaza trust financed all the mobilization and training activities, while Taifa Sacco came in as a financing partner lending directly to the farmers for their onion farming after 8 months of financial literacy training.
Finally we run a food security project for 24 farmers in Muranga by providing each of them with a goat as a pilot project to be replicated among several other groups in the area. We have experienced challenges with limited technical skills in livestock management, fodder crops, veterinary services and housing but thanks to the partnership we made with the county Government this are now being addressed and we can look forward to expanding the program to reach many more farmers.. Moreover, thanks to a credit mechanism, we can continue help other farmers once the first have achieved a sustainable business.
You attended the EVPA conference: do you consider yours as a VP organization?
Yes we can be considered a Venture Philanthropy organization. We offer to the community all the resources to enable them to come together; for example we also offer transportation facilities, we cover the cost of the meetings, the costs of training.
In this first 5 years of activity we didn’t create a social impact measurement system since we work every day on the field in our projects since we worked closely with the community and had regular meetings to discuss achievements and challenges. We have been able to experience the impact on the ground in better grades for the students, more confidence, less issues in school and for the farmers, better housing, ability to meet day to day expenses including school fees, medicine which has improved the quality of life of our beneficiaries, After the initial five years, we have done a review and are satisfied that there is clear impact on the ground, but there are also many gaps that need to be addressed. We just finished the strategic plan for the next 5 years of activities in which we are looking for scaling up our existing interventions, replicating in new regions and also addressing the gaps we have identified. We are also working on building our in-house capacity which includes staff development, systems, processes and structures which include social impact measurement. To be able to achieve this we are looking, for partners in Kenya and abroad. We have a good grip of the issues on the ground and are ready to scale up and create bigger impact and move towards reaching millions of vulnerable lives in Africa. As part of this commitment, I have resigned from the active day to day management of our business to dedicate myself full time of the Foundation’s activities.
How the private foundations are organized in Kenya at the moment?
I’m very glad to announce you that I’m working with other partners to the launch in 2017 of the Kenya Philanthropy Association, to collect in a national association all the existing private foundations in our country. Since in the past 10 years the interest for making a true social impact raised up here, it’s time to move to a national association that could helps foundations to be more effectives. At the moment we just have a regional association East Africa Association of Grant Makers for Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda.
What are the main differences between philanthropy in Africa and Europe?
I think that the biggest difference between Africa and Europe in philanthropy it’s just in the formality. Africans are very philanthropic and community based, but actually we need to improve the attention to the strategic giving and creation of formal organizations with sustainability this is one of the reason while we are working to create a national association that could also give training and consultancy support to help foundation to become more strategic .