What We Do

Creating Sustainable Businesses. Transforming Lives.

The Village Enterprise Model

Working in rural African villages, Village Enterprise’s mission is to end extreme poverty in rural Africa through entrepreneurship and innovation. Our model is simple and cost-effective, at just $500 per three-person business.

The Village Enterprise one-year Graduation program provides groups of three entrepreneurs with seed capital, training and on-going mentoring by a local business mentor. We organize the business groups into Business Savings Groups (BSGs) of 30 entrepreneurs (10 business groups) to allow access to growth capital, provide a safe place for savings and build social capital. Integrated conservation training ensures that new business activities promote environmental best practices. Examples of businesses include livestock, farming, small retail stores and restaurants, tailoring, and beekeeping.

Village Enterprise has started over 33,000 businesses and trained over 136,000 East Africans. As we scale up and move into new communities, we’re designing and testing pilots to improve our impact and efficiency. Read about the Village Enterprise Incubator.

Our Graduation Program

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    We identify individuals who live under $1.90 a day, have no prior business experience, and are unable to provide for their family’s basic needs. We assess poverty levels through a community-based Participatory Wealth Ranking exercise and Grameen’s Progress Out of Poverty Index (PPI).

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    Our business mentors deliver nine months of business and financial skills training designed for participants who have little formal education and assist them in forming small enterprises of three budding entrepreneurs each.

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    Seed Funding

    To light the fire of entrepreneurship, Village Enterprise provides $150 micro-grants as seed capital to start each business.

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    Business mentors guide each new group in selecting an enterprise that is best positioned to flourish, taking into account the team’s skill set, local market conditions, risk factors, and profitability.

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    Business Savings Groups

    Our new business owners form Business Savings Groups (BSGs), a self-generating, self-managed form of microfinance that pools savings and loans to members. BSGs provide members with ongoing protection against financial shocks and access to growth capital. Our Business Savings Groups serve as a safety net as well as our exit strategy.

Check out our Micro-Documentary.

Why Grants, Not Loans?

After nearly 30 years in the poverty-alleviation sector—including forays into both microfinance and unconditional cash transfers—we have honed a multi-faceted, integrated and highly cost-effective method that works best in rural East Africa where few, if any, banks exist.

Key reasons for using grants include:

We work with vulnerable people who have never started a business.

A $150 micro-grant sparks the ingenuity of entrepreneurs who are willing to invest time and energy into improving their lives. Microloan repayments typically start immediately and don’t provide the critical “breathing space” needed to nurture a new business to success.

Entrepreneurship is by nature a high-risk activity.

Our first-time entrepreneurs are more willing to take the risk of starting a new business venture if they don’t fear the potentially high costs of failure and further indebtedness or loss of meager assets potentially caused by a loan default.


A small seed grant, rather than a loan, gives business owners an immediate kick-start in improving their family’s standard of living.

Profits generated from their new enterprise can be used to address critical family needs (like food, medicine and school fees) and build capital and savings for their fledgling business, rather than to repay high-interest loans.

“I appreciate that Village Enterprise focuses on the poorest of the poor. Most microloans don’t reach this population; micro-grants can. Micro-grants are the first rung on the economic ladder.”

Jessica Jackley, Kiva Co-Founder & Author of Clay Water Brick

Where We Work

Village Enterprise currently works in remote, rural areas of East Africa where more than half of the population lives below the extreme poverty line. We have a team of over 100 East Africans and a handful of expats working full-time in Uganda and Kenya, where we deliver the model with our own feet on the ground.

By 2018, we plan to expand to additional African countries through scaling partners.

VE Coverage: Kenya and Uganda

Come see where we work.

“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, Poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”

Nelson Mandela

Extreme Poverty in Rural Africa

“Hunger, disease and poverty can lead to global instability and leave a vacuum for extremism to fill. So instead of just managing poverty, we must offer nations and people a pathway out of poverty.” – President Barack Obama

The Statistics

1.44 billion people in the world are ultra-poor, meaning that they live on less than $1.90 a day the World Bank’s definition of extreme poverty. Of these, one third reside in Sub-Saharan Africa. While global rates of extreme poverty have plummeted from 36% to 14% over the past 25 years, extreme poverty rates in Sub-Saharan Africa have declined at a much slower rate. And as Africa’s population continues to grow, the number of people living in extreme poverty has nearly doubled – reaching a staggering 415 million. This is more people than the population of the United States and Canada combined.

Less than $1.90 a day

1.44 billion

people in the world are ultra-poor

In Africa

415 million

people living in extreme poverty


The Human Face of Extreme Poverty

While these numbers speak to the magnitude of global poverty, statistics can’t convey the reality of those facing this daily struggle. What they fail to capture are the crippling effects of hunger, disease and lack of hygiene that perpetuate the vicious cycle of poverty. Most importantly, numbers can’t speak to our common humanity and the reality that no matter our culture, income level or geographic location, we all deserve to live with dignity and self-respect.

“Poverty is not just lack of money;
it is not having the capability to realize one’s full potential as a human being.”

Amartya Sen