What started as a small idea by a group of boda boda riders six years ago has now blossomed into a close knit family of 1000–strong self-help group and still counting.
Started from scratch on October 13, 2013, Machakos Riders Association is a living example of how pooling ideas and resources together can transform lives to the pinnacle of social and economic success.
According to Mr. Allan Musembi who is the chairman of the umbrella body that boasts of at least four other groups under their wings, the noble idea has not only transformed the sector which is one of the fastest growing industry in Kenya with close to 700,000 riders to date and still growing.
The unity has also brought order and discipline in the once chaotic sector that was synonymous with drunkards and drug abusers into a model worth emulating.
This is besides the sector being a source of livelihood for hundreds of families who depend on it for their daily sustenance.
“The association has 34 stages where and each of them has its own administration structure. Every stage has a committee which is under the executive and rules which govern them and the type of projects they undertake,” explained Musembi.
He also said that whenever a group decides to form a new formation they must first register and get a certificate from the department of Gender and Social Services.
Some of such groups include Kuweta na Kwika (Saying and doing) which consists of 15 members with a revolving fund where each member contributes Sh.300 daily.
They then use the contributions to purchase a motorcycle for a member whose name is usually picked through a balloting process.
There is also Uhuru market group where each of the members part with Sh.50 daily.
At the end of the month the group usually gives two members Sh. 20,000 each with which they can access a loan with and purchase a new motorbike.
We also met with Sokoni Riders group whose main objective is to improve the living standards of their members, according to the association’s chair Stephen Ndambuki.
He said the members commitment has seen the group grow in leaps and bounds and currently boasts of 85 registered riders.
“Sokoni riders group is growing bigger and we are currently contributing Sh.100 daily, each member and are looking forward to starting our own Sacco where we can save and borrow wisely,” he explained.
The group has at now managed to save Sh. 300,000 and hope to own their property and lift one another from the perennial curse of poverty that is associated with the rural folk.
There is also the Oil Libya Riders group which operates under the umbrella of Machakos Riders association.
Here the members’ daily contribution is Sh.50.
The money is thereafter shared out among two members with each receiving Sh. 100,000 at the end of the month and upon receiving the money a member can either decide to purchase a motor bicycle or venture into a different income generating activity.
However, the members do a follow up on the progress of the projects to ensure they are worth the money injected.
Certainly, there are more for the members to be thankful for as a result of these self groups.
For instance when a member dies or is indisposed, the group is always at hand to give a hand.
The members also come together in times of celebration such as wedding feasts and other social gatherings.
“I am very happy for joining the group of which it has been of more benefit to us. For example if one of our members faces a challenge like passing away of a relative or payment of dowry, we contribute a minimum of Sh.100 each and this shows a lot of unity among us,” said Mutua a member.
Nevertheless, even with these attainments, the bodaboda riders are not without challenges ranging from frequent runs with law enforcers and arrests by County government administrators, as Musembi explains.
He faults the county government for what he terms as a lack of interest in promoting the boda boda transport sector in Machakos despite it being a major transport means in the area.
“Since we started the association, the county government has never shown any interest of partnering with us despite this sector being a major contributor in raising the revenue of the county. We are now calling upon the government to rethink its decision of sidelining us and instead promote this vital transport sector,” he said.
Musembi says the riders stopped trusting area leaders after realizing they were only out to misuse them for their own political ends.
From then on the operators decided to come together and assist each other in uplifting their lives.
The occasional rise in pump prices has also not spared the sector, forcing them to transfer the added burden to their pillion passengers something which makes them complain.
He said the government should find a way in which to deal with the issue without hurting the sector.
Incidences of riders being mugged or killed by thugs masquerading as clients are also not a new phenomenon in the area, especially with the growing number of businesses cropping up within the town.
Musembi says they recently lost one of their colleagues to a gang who had boarded his motorcycle but later killed him before dumping his body into a river.
He is now calling upon security officers to heighten security measures to enable them operate in a safe environment.
By Samuel Maina and KNA team