Signage for Sarafu on the streets of Mukuru Kayiaba slum in Nairobi, Kenya, July 28, 2020. Photo Credit: Thomson Reuters Foundation/Kagondu Njagi.

Technology Kenya29. January 2021

Virtual Currency Helps Feed the Poor

Thanks to a blockchain-based community currency, thousands of Kenyans living in slums are able to pay for food, water, and necessity items during the corona pandemic, and save their money for rent.

“Blockchain can foster local trade by tapping resources that are ignored by mainstream businesses,” says Nelson Ochieng, a rights activist and social worker in Kibera, Nairobi’s largest slum. “It also increases levels of trust among struggling communities.”

Each family is given a weekly virtual voucher worth 400 Kenyan shillings ($4) to pay for essential items. On a daily basis, the platform Sarafu can make up to 1 million Kenyan shillings ($9,000) worth of transactions that are all tracked and transparent to make sure that people use their vouchers for necessities like food, health supplies, and educational resources.

In Mukuru, a third of the vendors joined Sarafu, allowing families to acquire necessary items even without any cash on hand. The project has helped people avoid eviction during the pandemic since they could save money. ‚ÄúThere have been no evictions in areas where Sarafu is being used by slum communities because they were able to pay their rent on time,” says Isaac Makavu who has a food kiosk in Mukuru. “No one is going to sleep hungry here because they have community currency.”

Thomson Reuters Foundation

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