Bodaboda Businesses Changing Lives of Persecuted in Kenya Village
Forced to leave his homeland after an al-Shabaab attack, Benson finally returns home and restarts his life with the help of ICC.
By Nathan Johnson
02/24/2021 Kenya (International Christian Concern) –In the early morning hours of August 17, 2017, al-Shabaab militants killed five people and burned down several homes in a ruthless ambush on Maleli village. The attack left residents devastated, forcing them to leave their farmland located within the fertile belt along the dense Boni forest of Coastal Kenya. Benson Karisa was among the displaced, and after spending six months in an IDP camp, he moved with his family into makeshift tents at the government’s Katsaka Kairo settlement.
As time passed, Benson and some villagers went back to Maleli to cultivate the remnants of their farms. Benson found that Somali Muslim pastoralists, known as the Orma, had let their herds of cattle take over his maize field. Benson urged the five men to remove their cows from his land, sparking an assault that left him beaten and mocked as a “kafir”- a derogatory term for non-Muslims. Benson sustained severe head injuries from the attack, but worse, he no longer felt safe to utilize his farmland as a source of food and profit.
To provide Benson with a safe, sustainable income, ICC gifted him a bodaboda: a motorbike commonly used in Kenya as a taxi. Months after the initial attack, which left him homeless, ICC visited Benson to see first-hand the success of this business venture. Here’s what Benson had to say during ICC’s latest visit:
“Bodaboda business is a hidden treasure if one works diligently. I took the first few months learning how to ride it, routes and how to handle customers. I am glad that today I have customers that just call me for a ride together with other new customers I meet at the stage or along the road. My family is well-fed and clothed from the returns of the business. I also put up a good house and installed a small solar panel that enables us to light all our houses.“
He added, “As you can see, I am helping my mother construct a new house that is more permanent because the older one has been eaten by ants. We can do all this through the money we receive from the motorcycle you gave us.”
Jonathan Kaingu Ngoa, another young man who survived the 2017 attack, was assaulted by al-Shabaab militants and left for dead. He was so severely injured that he nearly bled to death. Doctors believed that he would be partially paralyzed from the attack as well. Johnathan credits it as a miracle that police found him the morning after the attack and brought him to the hospital, where he was resuscitated and has since persevered through his long rehabilitation process.
When ICC found out that Jonathan could no longer provide for his family through hard labor, he was given a bodaboda in hopes that he could create a profitable transportation service. ICC recently visited him more than a year after he received the aid to check on the status of his new business:
“When I escaped from the attackers and sustained neck and head injuries, I could not manage to do heavy tasks to earn money. Through this motorcycle, I have managed to provide for my family of eight. We eat well, dress well, sleep well, and pay school fees without difficulties. We also have money for the hospital whenever one of us is sick. Besides, we support the local church here, where we get spiritual nourishment. Last year, we started saving as well, and the progress is good.” Jonathan testified. In the past year, Jonathan has been able to help his family return to a relatively normal life. He has provided much-needed medicine in times of sickness and hope for their futures.
Kahonzi Khambi lost her husband, Stephen Hinzano, during the same attack. Stephen was the sole breadwinner of their family of 11. With no husband and no means to make a living from the farmland, they had to flee, her children were forced to drop out of school, and the family struggled to meet basic needs.
Kahonzi Kambi was a motorcycle beneficiary who reaped greatly from the bodaboda business in Witu. ICC met with her and her son, Samuel Kadenge. He, with a huge smile, explained how they managed to double their initial income: “When my mother received this motorbike from you, we decided to join a local saving and credit co-operative where we could save little money from our daily returns. This turned out to be a good village bank for us. Although there are days or weeks we could not save due to other pressing needs, we kept the faith and believed that one day we shall have a good amount of money to do something bigger that could bring us more.”
Table banking in many villages in Kenya has been a great help to small traders and farmers, and Kahonzi Kambi and her son have tapped into it, enabling them to save money to expand their bodaboda business. She said, “After two years of saving at least 10 dollars per week, we were able to buy another motorcycle and gave it out to a rider who brings in 3 to 5 dollars per week. This is a great success for us as a family. We also have enough money for school fees, food, clothing, and emergency purposes. We are very thankful to ICC for planting a seed of hope in us when our lives were shattering away.”
Thank you so much to all of our partners and donors who have changed the lives of Jonathan, Kahonzi, and Benson. Dozens of people have been sustained through torment and trials due to your faithfulness. Continue to pray for the millions more who suffer each day, that they might know the peace and love of Christ more fully and that the worldwide church might grow closer together through their faith and longsuffering.