Posts filed under ‘KF14 (Kiva Fellows 14th Class)’
Agriculture loans are considerably different products than most micro loans. Agriculture loans include unique risks and potentially higher costs of servicing. In this article, Adam Cohn explains those differences, and how Kiva and Kiva lenders like you can help out poor farmers in Rwanda.
Kiva Fellows come from a vast variety of backgrounds, both in regards to their professional experience and hobbies. When the Kiva Fellows Program Team is trying to decide where to send people they try to decide what MFIs would benefit most from that fellow’s individual experience, and also what special projects they can work on to benefit Kiva’s mission and/or the MFI. As part of my fellowship i was asked to help add to Kiva’s library of borrower images, which are used for marketing and communications purposes by Kiva. With camera in hand I have set out to take some simple portraits of clients in their homes and businesses. Here are 10 of my favorite from both Chile and Colombia, hope you enjoy them!
Microfinance is about change- positive change for borrowers, their local economies, and the future of the developing world. This week our Fellows share stories of change across the globe: a brighter outcome for the children of Kiva borrowers in Sierra Leone; transformed businesses and microenterprises in Chile; and a lifestyle of adapting to change, for better or worse, in Lebanon, where resolute entrepreneurs still pay their loans on time.
It’s true what they say- these really are Loans that Change Lives.
Compiled by Kate Bennett, KF15, Ecuador
This week in the field fellows across the world explore the factors that make microfinance and its successes a reality. In Kenya, we meet the actors who reach out to borrowers everyday, at any and all degrees of their own discomfort. In Nicaragua, we discover that high aspirations can be met with equally powerful results. In Senegal, a series of well-dressed strangers introduce us to the rest of the community, and the lesson that any organization seeking to serve the community must truly know the community. Between Colombia, Haiti and the Dominican Republic we gain insight about the pros, cons, and the conditions for success in microfinance. Throughout these stories, we’re led into homes, gardens and local festivals; down roads, rivers, and a few wrong turns; and we ultimately reach our destination: a deeper understanding of how- or really, through who and what- this work is made possible.
Country: Kenya / Fellow: Nila Uthayakumar (KF15)
“It takes humility and tremendous patience to do the work that they do. A sense of humor is essential.” Nila sings the praise of the unsung heroes of microfinance: the loan officers.
A Rainy Day in Masaya
Country: Nicaragua / Fellow: Jason Jones (KF15)
How often does an organization’s mission statement really meet reality? Jason Jones finds that for his partner in Nicaragua and borrowers like Maura, Gloria, and Adelfa, lofty goals are realized everyday.
Kiva in the Community
Country: Senegal / Fellow: Tim Young (KF15)
As Tim Young begins to settle himself within his community, he learns that an microfinance institution’s presence in the local community must be deeply embedded as well.
The Pros and Cons of Microfinance – A View From The Field (A Three-Part Series)
Country: Colombia / Fellow: Nick Hamilton (KF14)
Part One of this through three-part series considers the strengths and benefits of microfinance. Part Two part two weighs its drawbacks and weaknesses. Part Three proposes a set of institutional and environmental factors that contribute to the success of microfinance.
Updates from the past month:
Personal Connections, Supply and Demand + A Culinary Excursion
Farewells, Mistaken Identities + Micro-Microfinance
Earth Day, Celebrations + Exceeding Expectations
Trash, Delicious Treats + Community Outreach
Cute Pigs, New Toilets + Everything is Relative
Plus more pictures from the past week:
This is the final installment of a three-part article on ‘The Pros and Cons of Microfinance – A View From The Field.’ The first concentrated on the pros of microfinance and the second on the cons. This third part will describe what I deem to be the optimum conditions for successful microfinance.
The cons described in Part 2 of this article may come across as quite negative, but at Interactuar (in Antioquia, Colombia – my second Kiva Fellowship) I saw many being countered and microfinance working particularly effectively.
By Nick Hamilton, KF14
I have just come to the end of a 3-month Kiva Fellowship with Interactuar, Kiva’s Field Partner in the state of Antioquia, Colombia. I was blown away by this organisation. ‘The Google of Microfinance Institutions,’ I kept thinking to myself.
by Jacqueline Gunn, KF13 Ghana, KF14 Ukraine
For the past 7 months I have been roaming the world as a Kiva fellow. I began in the lovely town of Cape Coast in the Central Region of Ghana where I spent my days in the office and my evenings and weekends on the beach. When I applied for a second fellowship, my only request was that it provided contrast to Ghana. Working in an industrial factory city in Eastern Ukraine has certainly delivered that. I arrived in Winter and it was -20 degrees Celsius outside and not much warmer inside.
Before I started on this adventure, I had expectations about what I would learn- microfinance in action, the inner workings of Kiva. I have had so many great opportunities to learn about microfinance, but for me this experience has been so much more as well. Here are just a few of the things I have learned as a fellow.
by Carlos Cruz Montaño KF14, Liberia
Are you hungry and you have only one dollar for a snack? With an exchange rate around 72 Liberian Dollars (LRD) per US dollar, a buck will give you a chance to try several snacks that sell for 10LRD or less…
It has been a phenomenal summer harvest here in Estelí, Nicaragua. Everywhere you look; there are fields filled with onions, sweet peppers, tomatoes, and cabbage, thanks to just the right amount of rainfall and sunshine, and access to financing through micro-credit. With loans from Kiva, borrowers bought plants, fertilizer, pesticide, gasoline for irrigation pumps, and also paid the salaries of workers, and rent for the land and use of a tractor.
So why then, are all the farmers struggling to make their loan payments? Why is a Kiva borrower delinquent 40 days in paying back his loan?
We have to go back to the last three years, before 2010. Harvests were not good. There was too much rain during the summer (Oct – April) which brought pests and rot. The farmers lost part of their crops, and couldn’t meet the demand in the market. Consequentially, prices for their produce shot up, and then did very well.
Then in 2010, the farmers, expecting the same conditions, all sowed their crops in October. However, this year, conditions were perfect. Come March, harvests exceeded expectations, and all the produce came to market at the same time, driving down the price. So instead of $6 for a box of tomatoes, the farmers were receiving $1.50. Now many farmers are forced to rely on an intermediary to broker a deal for their crop. The intermediary takes only three cents on the dollar for selling their harvest, but he is selling it at a cut-rate price, leaving the farmers with little to no earnings.
With no help from the government, the farmers are on their own to solve this dilemma. Many are letting their crops rot in the field, because it costs more to pick, bag, and ship the produce to market, than what they can expect to receive from a buyer. As a Kiva Fellow, seeing the poverty and hunger here in Nicaragua first-hand, and knowing that this is the second poorest country in Central America after Haiti, letting food go to waste is an outrage.
To understand how bad the situation is, Nicaraguans normally consume 60,000 lbs of tomatoes, and this year the farmers produced double that amount. And it is not only tomatoes that exceeded expectations, but onions, cabbage, and sweet peppers too. Onion farmers have told me their earnings this year are 80% less than in previous years.
Only a few lucky farmers were able to export their produce to neighboring El Salvador and Costa Rica, where the governments restrict imports to protect their own farmers.
Meanwhile, I have heard one heartbreaking story after another as farmers sit on produce they can’t sell, and are forced to sell off their assets, including livestock, to cover their debts, or face going into delinquency. To help the farmers, Kiva Field Partner MiCredito has begun to restructure the loans of the farmers to help them through this, but they cannot stop the downward spiral as the farmers are unable to take any new loans, which means they will not have the financing needed to sow their next crop, and so on.
As for the Kiva borrower who is already 40 days late in paying off his loan, his case weighs heavy on my mind as he tries daily to find a buyer for his onions. He and his wife have two young boys in primary school. They live in a one room house with a dirt floor and no running water. They own a horse and a few cattle, that the farmer may have to sell to keep from defaulting on his loan. The last news I received on his situation, was that he was restructuring his loan with Kiva Field Partner, MiCredito, to give him more time.
To avoid this adversity in the future, the farmers’ association has decided that next summer, starting in October 2011, the farmers will stagger their plantings in the three agricultural regions of Sebaco, Colita, and Estelí.
- Karen Gray, Kiva Fellow 14, Nicaragua
By Nila Uthayakumar, KF14, Uganda,
With the help of several other Fellows in the field
I’ve met all kinds of borrowers. From age 16 to 76; from orphans to a former beauty queen; from potato sellers to auto parts saleswomen to motorcycle transportation tycoons. I’ve met them in urban slums, in villages, in homes, on porches, in churches, in community centers, and outside in grassy fields. I’ve listened to their stories, I’ve photographed and filmed them, I’ve played with their children, and I’ve been welcomed into their homes. Two months into my Kiva fellowship, and I am more motivated and inspired than ever. My name is Nila and I live and work in Kampala, Uganda.
What I have understood from these borrowers is that poverty takes many shapes and forms. Poverty can mean desperation and destitution, and it can also mean having to make impossible choices between paying medical bills or school fees. It can mean not having enough food to eat today, or not having a secure enough future to be able to retire. The microloans I have seen in action place into the hands of borrowers the power to shape their own lives. The recipients of these loans are among the most dignified people I have ever met, and when given the chance, these individuals make tremendous improvements in their lives. (more…)
By John Farmer, KF 14, Mexico
Mexico decided back in 1924 that The Day of the Child would take place in April, long before the rest of the world decided to celebrate it in November. On April 30th I was in the state of Morelos, and went out into the streets to participate in the food and fun even though I long ago ceased being a child. A couple of women saw me without much food and insisted I get more. Such is the generosity in Mexico. The kids had all they wanted and more and there was still plenty for outsiders.
Mexico is a great place to be a kid in many respects. Children are absolutely adored in this culture where family is everything. They often live at home until well past childhood.
But youth here face all sorts of problems. Health is a major concern — the childhood death rate is nearly 7 times that of Western Europe. 15% of Mexican children under age 5 are stunted by malnutrition. Food insecurity effects over 40% of the country’s population according to some sources. Environmental concerns, such as pollution and smoke inhalation from cooking stoves, are also crippling factors.
By Alexis Ditkowsky, KF14, South Africa
Like most Fellows from Kiva’s 14th class, I am busily tying up the loose ends of my Fellowship. As much as I enjoyed my trips to the rural areas surrounding Richards Bay (although I wasn’t a huge fan of Richards Bay itself), I can’t say that I mind my current locale: the beach at Kommetjie, about an hour south of Cape Town. My Fellowship required a sustained burst of manic energy and proved to be an extraordinary mixed bag that was both incredibly challenging and rewarding. While I’m ready for a little R&R, I wouldn’t take back any part of the past three months, except perhaps for the multitude of yappy dogs that started barking at 5:30am each morning and harassed me on all of my walks. I definitely could have done without them!
Yvonne Chen, a Boren Fellow in Indonesia (2010-2011) and a graduate student at The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, contacted me after reading about my experience here at TLM on the Kiva Fellows blog. She was interested in conducting her research study in West Timor with TLM to collect data for her thesis on youth financial inclusion in East Indonesia. Despite her busy schedule, Yvonne was able to share some findings from her West Timor research as well as thoughts on Indonesian microfinance and Kiva’s work. Enjoy reading the interview below!
Clara Vreeken, KF 14, Bolivia
Clara volunteered as Kiva Fellow in Bolivia. She worked for the micro finance institutions IMPRO, Pro Mujer and Emprender. In this blog she elaborates on health issues in Bolivia – Bolivians prefer to drink herbal tea and listen to witch doctors instead of seeing a doctor – and she says goodbye as the end of her Kiva Fellowship has arrived.
By Caree Edson, KF14, Armenia
I was having lunch with a colleague who wants to practice his English when he offered to take me out into the field to witness a day in the life of a regional manager. It was here that I realized that sometimes years worth of schooling happens in a single day on the other side of the world and there is no substitute for witnessing first-hand how and why microfinance works.
What do a woman, a priest, a diamond trader have in common with microfinance?
As a Kiva Fellow one has many roles like trainer, guest speaker, advisor and others but I never expected someone to think of me as a woman, a priest or a diamond trader… how did it happened?
By Noreen Giga, KF 14, Peru
Founded in 1986, Prisma is celebrating 25 years of bringing “financial services and non-financial services to disadvantaged communities in order to strengthen them, and promote sustainable social and economic development.” And the credit branch of Prisma, Microfinanzas Prisma, formed in 1994 is celebrating 17 years of reaching Peru’s urban and rural poor.
By Adam Cohn, Kiva Fellow KF14, Kigali, Rwanda
Share taxis around the world exhibit a variety of names, including Poda-Poda, Tro-Tro, Marshrutka, Jitney, Bemo, and Bush Taxi. Similarly, the colors and designs of the share taxis vary wildly, right down to this Justin Bieber minibus in Kigali, Rwanda.
Kiva Fellow Adam Cohn takes a look at how share taxis work, and shows photos of these colorful carpools from around the world.
Nearly half the world’s population lives on less than $2.50 per day. That’s a lot of people, and finance isn’t the only sector that’s gone micro to reach this huge market.
- By David McNeill, KF14 Sierra Leone
Compiled by Alexis Ditkowsky
Kiva Fellows observed Earth Day by sharing projects initiated by their partner microfinance institutions and host countries and by celebrating Kiva.org’s first batch of “Green Loans”. The upbeat mood also extended to anniversary parties at MFIs in Jordan and Armenia, enthusiastic endorsements to travel to Colombia, and reporting on a great opportunity for Kiva clients in Mongolia. Fellows also visited with borrowers in the Philippines, South Africa, and Armenia, and took us on a typical commute in Mexico City. All in all, a very busy week as members of KF14 wind down their time in the field.
Compiled by Caree Edson, KF 14, Armenia
One of the unfortunate sight-seeing adventures that you never sign up for when you travel (especially in developing countries) is the unseemly amount of trash cluttering the otherwise beautiful landscapes. In Armenia, it isn’t possible to see the horizon through the smog most days and the streets are covered in cigarette butts and litter. I found no exceptions to this as I inquired from other Kiva Fellows about the dire situation in their countries. Environmental education and reform are simply not a top priority in many countries. But the future of climate change initiatives are not entirely hopeless…
As you may know, since August 2009, XacBank has offered Kiva borrowers an incentive to pay their loan principal and interest back on time – an interest rebate in a savings account! If a Kiva borrower pays back on time, then XacBank deposits 9 percent of the interest the borrower has paid on their loan into a savings account. As a Kiva Fellow, I have worked with XacBank to update their policies regarding how Kiva borrowers are considered eligible for interest rebates and simplify how the MFI offers the savings accounts to new Kiva borrowers.
By Caree Edson, KF 14, Armenia
There were incredible stories of resiliency on the Kiva website that moved me to sacrifice my stable income, access to hot water and balanced nutrition, not to mention consistent contact with my friends and family back home for a few short months in pursuit of furthering my knowledge in the field of microfinance. In short, the reason I became a Kiva Fellow was to fulfill Kiva’s mission of “connecting people through lending to alleviate poverty”. I could think of nothing I’d rather be doing with my days than meeting farmers and small business owners on the other side of the world and sharing their stories with all of you. I informed a few borrowers last week that I journeyed all the way from the US to meet them and hear their stories, and I meant every word.
So this morning I get on the northbound subway leaving Ermita, heading to Chabacano. This is the Blue Line, heading from middle-class southern part of town toward the bustling center of Mexico City. There’s one seat, but the people around it are sort of spilling into it, so I stand.
Less than a minute into my ride, it starts — the beggars and vendors. The show can be pretty entertaining. In the first act, an indigenous woman walks through the car with a bunch of little cards, each one saying something to the effect of “Please help out by giving me a few coins.” She places them in people’s laps or in the hands of those that accept. I’m about two feet taller than she is, so I look straight ahead and pretend not to see her. After they’ve had time to read and consider, a girl who looks ten but is probably sixteen collects the cards and any change that people give. Not everyone is heartless — some give.
Next I hear percussion: one-two, one-two — a blind man is shaking a bucket with a few coins and shuffling very slowly down the aisle. A few more are added to his collection, and I ponder the precision of his pace. Faster, and people wouldn’t have time to feel the need, dig into their purse or pocket, and toss the coins into his bucket.
Celebrate Good Times, Come On!
Here at a growing microfinance bank in Jordan, it’s now always about looking forward. Sometimes, it’s about looking back. Tamweelcom started in 1999. In only twelve years, Tamweelcom has gone from a few hundred clients to over 57,000 currently active clients. If you’re a bank, how do you celebrate your longest-standing borrowers and show newer borrowers that they are valued customers?
A party with a big cake and gifts is one way to do it. I tagged along with Tamweelcom staff to visit two branches where the celebrations took place.
All Locally Sourced: The celebratory cake was prepared by a local baker.
Cake > Staff: The cake takes up half the counter. Dana, one of the staff from headquarters who visited the field offices that day, is a member of the Customer Service Center, which fields client calls, complaints, and questions.
Teamwork: Loan officers work together to divvy up the cake and practice their balancing abilities. Loan officers are often from the same communities as the borrowers.
All Eyes On Deck: Borrowers eye the cake as it’s being served. Over 98% of Tamweelcom’s borrowers are women and many brought their kids to the celebration.
Pashmina Time: Borrowers for more than 4 years received Pashmina scarves. Borrowers for more than 10 years, almost since the banks inception, received watches as a sign of gratitude from the bank for their long history and the strong example they set for the newer borrowers. Many of these borrowers began with a small loan ($200-600) for a project from home and have since graduated to loans tailored to small businesses (up to $14,000).
It’s a Work Day After All: Despite all the festivities, work carries on. Hundreds of clients visit the branch offices each day to make repayments or take out loans. Tamweelcom just established a partnership with Zain, Jordan’s biggest telecom company. Clients can now make loan repayments using their mobile phone.
To make a loan so that future borrowers may have something to celebrate, click here.
Alex Silversmith is a Kiva Fellow working in Jordan.