Kenya: How 40 reformed cattle thieves earn 7.2 million shillings per year thanks to Boda Business
In the remote Chesta Mall in West Pokot County, many motorcycles labeled “Straight” are parked at a step awaiting passengers while others are already carrying passengers to the area.
Other operators roam the bustling local market, honking their horns to attract passengers.
Across the street, some retail stores carry the same “Straight” label.
Formed in 2015, the Straight Generation Youth Group, behind the names on boda bodas and local shops, includes reformed cattle thieves who want to escape their twisted ways of making money in a “clean and straightforward” way.
Today, the group earns 7.2 million shillings per year from its activities and has no plans to stop.
The group has an office in Chesta and has inspired others in the area with a beehive of activity.
Young people come from areas that were once hot spots like Masol, Koshelei, Koritich, Wei Wei and Takaiywa.
The group started with 36 members and now numbers 40, including two women.
The young people started out by being hired to ride motorcycles owned by other people for a monthly salary, which they used to collect 1,000 shillings per member until it was enough to buy two motorcycles.
This working capital has now acquired 17 boda bodas for the group, three retail stores, two vehicles and land in Chesta.
The group says it now collects Sh 20,000 per day, which translates to Sh 600,000 per month and a net sum of Sh 7.2 million annually from its businesses.
Following the growth of their various businesses, members are now required to contribute Sh500 per day.
This increases the pool of the group, and with it, even bigger dreams.
The group wants to buy two new matatus with 14 seats and save enough to build a hotel on the land they have acquired.
Organizing the members the way a depot sacco worked was the genius they needed to thrive, said group coordinator Julius Ng’olenyang Karimoi, a reformed thief.
“We have now stopped drinking, taking miraa and engaging in other wrongdoing. The group’s motto is ‘always forward, never back’,” he said.
“Some of us had dropped out of school because our parents couldn’t afford the tuition for us, but now we are happy that we can educate ourselves and make a decent living from what we do.”
The group has leaders who direct its activities, elders who advise young people, and religious leaders who offer spiritual guidance to members.
“We have meetings every week and save money according to the constitution of the group,” he said.
Members are now stable, with companies helping them put food on the table in an area that understandably does not support agriculture, said President Stanley Kiyada, also a reformed thief.
“We are saving to support children with scholarships because our region is very dry and we cannot do agriculture. We want to support each other to change the narrative of poverty and hunger,” he said. .
To complement the business activities of their husbands, the wives of the boda boda operators have also created a side group of 25, where they engage in beadwork and other small businesses, modeled on the Straight Group.
“Our husbands are now disciplined and there are no more quarrels. Young people with long hair have shaved and do not bother people in the city,” said Mama Rotich, a member of the women’s group.
“We sell traditional necklaces for 3,000 shillings, belts for 1,000 shillings, chains for 1,000 shillings and hand guards for 100 shillings. We have no shortage of salt and we participate in rides, which keep money in our pockets. “
Jackson Peng’at, the group’s boss who is a former county secretary in the West Pokot County government, praised the initiative which has helped bring peace to several hot spots on the volatile Turkana counties border, West Pokot and Elgeyo Marakwet.
He said the 18-35 age group is unique and progressive, with a target of around 500 members now.
Their success story, he said, inspired the entire county and they even received invitations to expand the initiative to other locations.
The group employs more than 30 motorcyclists, who work for the owners of the motorcycles, he said.
“The group has helped eradicate vices and crime cases have decreased in the region. We do not know of any cattle raids in this region. The initiative has changed the face of this region and improved the standard of living,” he said. he declared.
“Young people have self-regulation rules when they stop and discipline those who misbehave by keeping a motorcycle for a few days. If one of them steals, they follow up.”
He said that young people are also engaging in community work.
The biggest vision, he said, was to build a big hotel, open a bank and create a shopping center in the county.
Calling on the national government to help them with their vision, the group cited challenges such as bad roads that contribute to accidents and damage motorcycles.
“When it rains the mirrors break and we spend a lot of money fixing motorcycles and then we fail to bring food to our homes,” said Jackson Karikamoi, a boda boda pilot employed by the group.