‘I now feel good because I have money’: Roseline, chip vendor

Even though she recognised the importance of providing her children with an education, Roseline Ngeno hurt every time she had to pay their school fees. The salary her husband made as a teacher only went so far, and because the tuition was a priority, the family often struggled to meet basic needs.

That all changed once Roseline, 40, joined a Hand in Hand Self-Help Group generously supported by the IKEA Foundation. Empowered with the knowledge of how to run a business, she has been growing potatoes and selling chips that residents of her village of Molem, in the ward of Merigi in Kenya’s Bomet East sub-county, can’t stop eating.

“I now feel good because I have money,” Roseline says. “I have no worries. When my children want clothing, I have money. If I want to plant in the garden, I have money. I calculate my profits and I keep them and use them well.”

Bomet County, Kenya

A difficult path

Women living in Bomet county such as Roseline have a hard time finding permanent employment. As she says, “Women don’t have a chance of getting jobs here.”

The Kenya Red Cross Society determined in a 2015 study that 42.9 percent of households in Bomet County earn less than US $3.20 a day. Only 34 percent of women in the county aged 15-49 have at least some secondary school education, according to a 2014 report by Kenya’s National Bureau of Statistics.

Bomet is one of the most densely populated areas in western Kenya and, with 58,000 registered farmers, its economy leans heavily on agriculture. Even then, very few are women, as most tend to the home and the cattle, and almost none hold permanent jobs.

Chipping away boundaries

Roseline, who had occasionally earned a temporary income in the past, knew she needed to do something to help brighten the futures of her seven children. Through a friend, she heard about Hand in Hand’s Kondametutab Molem Self-Help Group in 2016 and joined, hoping to learn a thing or two about ways she could start her own business.

“I used to find it difficult asking my husband for money all the time, and when he said there is no money, I felt bad,” Roseline says. “But now, since I joined the group, I’ve been able to make money quickly.”

Having been taught the basics of bookkeeping, entrepreneurship and table banking, Roseline was able to access the land leased by the group. She then realised no one else was growing potatoes, and after thinking of a way to sell them to the rest of the community, she decided to turn them into chips.

Achieving that miraculous balance of crispy and unctuous, Roseline’s chips are a revelation – superior, 10 times out of 10, to the stodge at your local chippy.

Roseline, who also sells tea and chapatis, offers the chips for KES 30 (US $0.30) or KES 50 (US $0.50), often to schoolchildren. While it helps that she doesn’t have any competition, finding the right recipe has kept villagers coming back for more.

“If you want to make good chips, you chop potatoes first, put the right amount of oil in the pot and cook them until they are dry — but not too dry,” Roseline says. “I prefer chips that are not very dry.”

Growing a future

Since starting her business, Roseline estimated she has been able to make KES 10,000 ($98 USD) a month. She has not only put that money toward her children’s school fees but has reinvested it as well.

“My income has increased very much,” she says. “The business does help me. I have been able to decorate my house and bought some utensils.”

Her goal is to expand the business, as she would like to one day be able to sell sugar and other food to people in the village. And her husband, whose time is limited because he teaches at a primary school far from home, has also helped out.

“I am thankful to God because the [Hand in Hand] donors have enabled me to join the Group that has taught me a lot of things,” Roseline says. “All this has improved my life.”

Roseline’s results

Learned fundamentals of shopkeeping

Able to provide for children’s school fees

Wants to continue to grow business