Posts filed under ‘Ghana’

My first everything in Ghana

After an easy trip. I arrive to Accra, Ghana. The first feeling you have when you step out of the plane is an intense hot an humidity, and this in when you miss the snow at home.

It is 8 PM and the Ghanian national football team is playing the semifinals of the African Cup against Burkina Faso. The whole country is mobilized. I can hear the screams all along the airport. For the moment they are drawing, but with good opportunites. Maybe it is because of the macth that taxi drivers are behaving in a foolish way. I asked one of them about a hostel I knew, and he answers me he takes me there without any problem. I jumped on the taxi with all my stuff, we move forward few meters and he starts asking everyone where the hostel is. I ask him if he truly knows where it is, and he answers me no.

I make the same process with another taxi and it happens completely the same, till a kind woman called Evelyn, offers me her help. She told me she knew a hostel not far from her home. I relied on her and her little son John.

After a few minutes drive we arrive to the hostel. It was not as cheap as I expected, but it is 10 am, I am exhausted and the last thing I want to do is wandering in an African city of  3,5 million habitants. I go straight  to bed.

The day after everything is the first time for me.

My first bedroom

Captura de pantalla 2013-02-08 a la(s) 19.59.16

Mi first sight of Accra

Captura de pantalla 2013-02-08 a la(s) 19.59.30

My first bathroom

Captura de pantalla 2013-02-08 a la(s) 19.58.50

My first coconut

Captura de pantalla 2013-02-08 a la(s) 21.05.36

My first meal

Captura de pantalla 2013-02-08 a la(s) 19.59.42

My first defeat.

I realize Ghana lost in penalties. It is in that moment when I remind they almost are the first African country in reaching Worldcup semifinals. An Uruguayan player´s hand  and the latter missed penalty of a Ghanian player impeded it.

Bad luck in football continues for me. In El Salvador I attended with Fundación Campo Microfinance the qualifying game between Costa Rica and El Salvador. Of course, they lost.

But this event do not remove the smiles from them. They know what is suffering in the field and out of it. This is why they give thanks for reaching so far and they will try again harder than ever next year.

Captura de pantalla 2013-02-08 a la(s) 21.06.38

The day after the defeat, some supporter demonstraiting their devotion for the national team.

14 February 2013 at 09:00

Dancing in the New Year

By Holly Sarkissian, KF 19,  Benin & Togo

In Benin, New Year’s Eve is a BIG HOLIDAY. I recently spoke with two Kiva borrowers about their plans to celebrate. Meet Flaure:
Image
Flaure is currently saving money to celebrate the New Year. She plans to buy pagne (or colorful fabric) to make a new outfit for each member of the family. She will also celebrate by cooking a special meal and dancing with her friends and family.

Meet Romance of the Dieu Est Grand Group (God is Big Group):
Image

Romance is looking forward to celebrating Christmas and the New Year. She plans to sell pre-made New Year’s outfits for children in order to earn additional income. During the festivities each member of her family will wear a new outfit made of pagne or colorful local fabric. They will also celebrate by eating and dancing together.  Romance’s favorite dance is Zouk which originates from the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique and has gained popularity in francophone  Africa .

In addition to Zouk, there are several other dances popular in the region. Many of the kiva borrowers in Ghana, Togo, and Benin will be celebrating the holidays with the following dances:

1. Cool Catché is a dance with origins in Togo that is very popular throughout West Africa. This dance is done by lifting one’s hand or foot in front of the body and alternating right and left to the beat of the music. There is also a version of this dance called Cool Catche Mama which involves moving the head and neck back and forth to the beat of the music. You can see both versions in this popular Togolese music video LA GRIPPE CC.

2. Azonto originates from Ghana and Nigeria and is also very popular throughout the region. It involves knee bending, hip movements, and alternating pulses of ones hand in front of the body between the legs and then up to the sky.  It is said that Azonto is the dance of the spirits so in many popular versions of the dance, the dancers will wear masks to enhance the dance’s cryptic element. You can see it in this two popular songs:

  1. Sokodé or the Azonto Song
  2. Afro Mask

3. Cutata originates from Togo and Cote d’Ivoire . This is the dance for booty dancing lovers everywhere. It involves shaking ones behind up and down very quickly. You can see some starting at minute 1:52 in this popular Togolese music video, Fo Mapelé.

4. Agbadja  is a traditional rhythm originating from the Mina and Ewe ethnic groups. It comes from the southern region of Togo and the southwest region of Benin. You can see Agbadja in this video.

5. Simpa comes from the central region of Togo, originating from the Kotokoli ethnic group. You can see a performance of Simpa in this video taken in Sokodé, Togo.

6. Kamou comes from the North of Togo, originating from the Kabiyè ethinic group. You can see an example of this dance performed by the group The Seeds in their music video Lidaw.

Now you too can celebrate the New Year by dancing like a West African Kiva Borrower.

Happy Holidays!

Holly is a Kiva Fellow currently dancing with Kiva Borrowers in Togo & Benin. Find a borrower in Togo or Benin and lend today!

19 December 2012 at 14:10

Update from the Field: Client training in Mexico, saying “hello!” to Burkina Faso, + learn a little bit about Albania!

Compiled by Isabel Balderrama | KF17 + KF18 | Bolivia

The road to work

The road to fellow DIana Biggs’ job in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

This week our intrepid team of KF-18 fellows brings us an interesting mix of stories from a wide variety of countries. From taking a lesson on how to raise and care for sheep in Mexico, to learning more about little-known countries such as Burkina Faso and Albania, this week’s posts are sure to keep your interest. Read on for a fellow’s take on what it is that’s keeping Africa from achieving unity and to catch a glimpse of what a fellow’s first few days at work are like in a new and challenging environment.

Bonne Arrivée: Welcome to Ouagadougou
Diana Biggs | KF18 | Burkina Faso
Freshly arrived to our favorite city to pronounce, Diana tells us a little bit about the challenges, and the joys, of living and working in her hot and humid new environment.

A United Africa Part One: What is standing in the way?
Carissa Look | KF18 | Ghana
Here, Carissa brings us Part One of a two-part blog about the political and communication barriers that face the countries of Africa throughout their quest to become a more united continent. In this first installment Carissa explains how Africa’s sheer size is a great impediment to its countries working together.

 Mexican Tale of Women and Sheep
Emmanuel M. von Arx | KF 16+17 | Mexico
In his last post, Emmanuel covered FRAC’s involvement with “Mexico’s greatest artisan fair” and thus made us aware of some of the non-financial services that this partner MFI provides its clients. In this post, Emmanuel stays on this topic by telling us about another non-financial service provided by FRAC: Sheep-rearing courses provided by a UNAM-educated veterinarian. Read on to learn a little more about the benefits of this service, and also if you’ve always been curious as to why sheep have four stomach compartments.

A United Africa Part Two: Why is my internet so slow, why are my phone calls so expensive and what can be done about it to unite Africa, enhance Kiva, and speed development?
Carissa Look | KF18 | Ghana
After reading this first installment about some of the possible geopolitical causes for a lack of unity in the African continent, Carissa moves on to analyze the high cost of telecommunications as a culprit for some African nation’s lack of cooperation with its neighbors and the rest of the world. In this post, Carissa also explains how these challenges affect Kiva’s work in Ghana.

Spotlight on Europe’s most mysterious country
Alice Reeves | KF18 | Kosovo & Albania
As you might remember, on her last post Alice enlightened us on one of her two assigned destinations: Pristina, Kosovo. This time around we are taken on a brief historical and geographical tour of Albania, her second destination, and she also introduces us to VisionFund Albania (VFA), the partner MFI she will also be working with.

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Updates from the Past Month:

Update from the Field
Life as a Fellow in San Francisco, a walk through an art fair + becoming part of a winning soccer team
Appreciating Volunteers & Poetry from a Newly Arrived Fellow
Introducing joinFITE.org, a new platform designed to empower women in entrepreneurship

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Plus, more pictures from the past week:

Diana’s sweltering office in Ouagadougou

Diana Biggs’ adorable alarm clock

Veterinarian Linda Velázquez giving FRAC clients and fellow Emmanuel a presentation on how to properly care for sheep

9 July 2012 at 08:00 4 comments

Fellows’ First Days in the Field

by Luan Nio | KF18 | Nicaragua

We think we are all well-travelled, educated and smart, with great interpersonal skills and able to handle difficult situations. But what does actually happen at a Kiva Fellow’s first day in the office?
Most of us have not worked in microfinance before, have never visited their destination country and sometimes don’t speak the local language as well as they might think.

Here are impressions from around the globe during our first day with our assigned Kiva field partner.

(more…)

30 June 2012 at 11:03 4 comments

Along the road

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.

No food for lazy man- Abura, Ghana

Continue Reading 16 May 2011 at 14:02 4 comments

Microlending Behind the Scenes: How MFIs Judge Credit Worthiness

By Nila Uthayakumar, KF14, Uganda, 

With the help of several other Fellows in the field

Borrowers of an MCDT solidarity group meet under the shade of a tree in Kampala, Uganda.

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…)

5 May 2011 at 11:31 2 comments

Share Taxis Around The World: The How, Why & Design

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.

Rwanda: That Bieber Fever

Continue Reading 26 April 2011 at 11:00 7 comments

Update from the Field: Earth Day, Celebrations + Exceeding Expectations

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.

Continue Reading 25 April 2011 at 02:45 4 comments

Update from the Field: April Fools, Terrible Coffee + Getting Attached

Compiled by Alexis Ditkowsky, KF14, South Africa

We hope you enjoyed our April Fools post on Friday! While we were entertaining ourselves pulling it all together, we also found the time to attend to some serious matters: coffee in Colombia is no joke (in a bad way), some borrowers are easier to locate than others, and oftentimes Fellows must say goodbye to people and places before they’re ready to. We also learned about the “No Pago” movement in Nicaragua, the elections in Peru, what daily life is like for a Fellow in Bolivia, and how to sensibly and respectfully collect past-due payments in Ghana. Somehow there was even time to host a previous Fellow and a documentary film student in Colombia and to visit borrowers, eat chocolate, and stop for the view in Armenia.

Continue Reading 4 April 2011 at 00:46 8 comments

Special Update from the Field: Beaches, Safaris + Cambodian Glamour Shots

Compiled by Alexis Ditkowsky, KF14, South Africa

Kiva Fellows are nothing if not creative. We’ve gone to elaborate lengths to convince you that it can be hard to visit borrowers and that when we’re not trekking for miles, we’re doing elaborate calculations or dealing with databases and reporting. In truth, it’s all a front for an extended holiday from our regular lives. You thought our recent Carnival coverage represented a change of pace? Think again!

Continue Reading 1 April 2011 at 00:13 7 comments

Owe Money, Pay Money

By Mei-ing Cheok, KF14, Ghana
In Singapore, where I come from, if you were desperate enough to borrow from a loan shark (or “Ah Long” as they are not so affectionately known) and brave enough not to repay your debt on time, there are usually a few interesting messages sent to you before the heavies pay you a visit.
The name of the game is humiliation: there’s nothing like broadcasting your financial woes to your gossipy neighbours. First, you will find Chinese words painted in blood red on your door and walls, which directly translate into “Owe Money, Pay Money” (although these days, the Ah Longs have gone bilingual and sometimes paint “O$P$”). If that isn’t enough motivation for you, you might find a pig’s head at your doorstep. After that, it gets physical.

So when I met Evans, an employee of the Christian Rural Aid Network (a local microfinance institute that partners Kiva in Ghana), and he informed me that he was a Recovery Officer, I got a little nervous. (more…)

29 March 2011 at 15:00 9 comments

Update from the Field: Fun Facts, Field Visits + Back to Basics

Compiled by Alexis Ditkowsky, KF14, South Africa

For many Fellows, this week was about getting back to basics: the borrowers. In between fun facts about Kiva Fellowships, doing database detective work, and reflecting on the internal dynamics of Kiva’s partner microfinance institutions, Fellows found themselves in the field again and again, much to their delight and often to the delight of borrowers. From Latin America to Africa to the Caucasus to Southeast Asia to Eastern Europe, meet Kiva clients, learn about their businesses, and check out all of the great photos.

Continue Reading 21 March 2011 at 01:53 9 comments

Update from the Field: Carnival, Collaboration + Cheese-Making

Compiled by Alexis Ditkowsky, KF14, South Africa

This past week was all about collaboration: Fellows coordinating across continents to profile entrepreneurs and organizations who believe International Women’s Day should be every day and community members coming together to celebrate Carnival in all of its elaborate glory. We learned about public health in Peru, making cheese and cigars in Nicaragua, the impact of climate change in Bolivia, and the challenges faced by a microcredit saleswoman in Guatemala. Life as a Kiva Fellow is busy as always!

Continue Reading 14 March 2011 at 00:45 8 comments

Empowering women through microfinance in Ghana

By Mei-Ing Cheok, KF 14, Ghana

Weekly meeting for these borrowers

A woman’s role is at home – mainly, in the kitchen – and her chief responsibility is to make babies. Education is not important. In fact, if a woman gets too educated, she might not be able to get a husband. How then, would she make babies?

That makes me – 35, female, tertiary-educated and single – a social pariah in Ghana. And with my dreadful cooking, I am definitely bad wife material here.

Unfortunately, this is still the general perception of women here and in many parts of the world. To make matters worse, title deeds for rural homes in Ghana are usually in the names of the husbands, which leave the wife and children vulnerable to being evicted by the husband’s family, should he pass away. Even a recent intestate succession law (PNDC 111) has not made a significant improvement to women’s inheritance rights because most are still ignorant of the law.

“Indigenous proverbs and metaphors such as ‘the palm tree does not bear fruit in a woman’s farm’ or that ‘If a woman buys a gun, it is a man who keeps it’” … “indicates that women are not supposed to be as economically productive as men are, and even if they are, men control their resources. Men are supposed to maintain, and provide, the economic support for their wives and children domestically. This explains why Ghanaian society seems to invest more inheritance rights on men than women”Women and Property Inheritance after Intestate Succession, Law 111 in Ghana

The good news is that there are groups that are championing women’s rights and yet others, like the Christian Rural Aid Network (CRAN) that are empowering them economically.

CRAN’s role in helping women

CRAN is a local microfinance institute that Kiva works with in Ghana. Through its Freedom from Hunger programme, CRAN provides micro loans to thousands of women in rural and sub-urban areas. In my interviews with borrowers, an overwhelming number of them place children’s education and building their own home as top priorities in their lives. Aside from wanting different and better lives for their children, these women are also counting on their offspring to look after them later in life. Financial empowerment is also providing women with another form of security: that they will have a roof over their heads for the rest of their lives.

Chester, the loan officer, and the Credit Association President counting the repayments at the weekly meeting

Director of Operations at CRAN, George Tokpo, explains that the Freedom from Hunger programme is primarily for women because the ‘trickle-down benefits’ of providing women with capital is a lot greater. “When we empower women, they are able to provide for their families. We acknowledge that women are a lot more responsible than men when it comes to the upbringing of their children.”

He adds, “If we empower women economically, we are also attending to the needs of the children.”

AB, Kiva Coordinator at CRAN, hard at work

Another key reason for the focus on women is CRAN’s view that women make better clients. “Women are able to find jobs much more easily than men. They’re a lot more adaptable. If one business fails, they will pick something else up very quickly. Women are able to engage in more regular, income-generating activities.”

For example, if we look at the fishing sector, which has recently had a few hiccups: fishmongers (women) can switch to another line of work, such as selling food or provisions, fairly quickly. However, the fishermen would struggle to find other forms of employment. This adaptability reduces the likelihood of defaults.

CRAN in 2010 alone provided micro loans to about 3,700 women with a cumulative of 21,378 women reached with micro loans and financial services since its inception.

CRAN team: Gifty (in charge of borrower profiles), George (Director of Operations) and Cecilia (journal updates)

Other microfinance services that CRAN provides:

Through CRAN, women also have access to savings accounts and insurance cover. For an annual premium of GHS25 – 55, women are now covered for the following:

Own life GHS1000
Spouse’s life GHS500
Auto Accident Injuries GHS500
Fire/Flood Disaster to Business GHS500
Child Mortality GHS500

(Note: USD1 = GHS1.52 as at 3 March 2011)

In the developed world, these may not seem like huge sums of money, but here, GHS500 goes a long way.

Starting young

Understanding the importance of education, CRAN’s Child Education Sponsorship Scheme (CESS) has a strong focus on providing financial support for girls. 55 per cent of the children who are receiving sponsorships through CESS are girls, more than the ratio of girls to boys in schools, especially above elementary education levels.

Baby steps

There is still a way to go before women enjoy gender equality in Ghana, but it is encouraging to see how civil society and organizations like CRAN are making a positive difference today.

Happy International Women’s Day!

(For more International Women’s Day stories by Kiva Fellows, read Celebrating Women around the World )

Mei-ing is a Kiva Fellow working with the Christian Rural Aid Network (CRAN) in Cape Coast, Ghana. She finds the kitchen too hot and prefers to find a man who can cook.

Her recent posts:

Gone Fishing

Hey, Soul Sisters!

Have Tro Tro, Will Travel in Ghana

Find out how you can lend to a Kiva Entrepreneur or become a Kiva Fellow

To lend to CRAN borrowers, please join the CRAN Lending Team.

8 March 2011 at 00:00 6 comments

Celebrating Women around the World!

Contributions from Kiva Fellows around the globe, compiled by Mei-ing Cheok.

Solidarity - A group of Ghanaian women after their weekly meeting with their loan officer

The beauty of microfinance is that it gives people at the wrong end of the income spectrum opportunities to step out of the poverty trap. It also provides women the confidence and security that comes from earning their own income, leading to greater gender equality.

Financially and economically empowering women, studies have shown, has a greater ‘trickle-down’ effect, as they tend to spend more of their earnings on the household expenses such as school fees and healthcare. Thus, it benefits not only themselves, but also their families and even their communities.

This International Women’s Day, Kiva Fellows celebrate individuals and organisations around the world who have contributed to the advancement of women in their communities. We salute you.

Cambodia: From Housewife to Entrepreneur

By Stephanie Sibal

Norn, entrepreneur from Cambodia

Norn, a petite 28-year-old former housewife with two young children, used to rely solely on her husband’s US$5 per day income as a blacksmith. With her loan, Norn braved her first ever trip outside her tiny neighborhood to buy groceries and opened up a store in front of her home. She can now make up to US$15 in gross income per day. While the ins and outs of running her own business are an ongoing learning process, Norn is thankful. She now has regular customers who have also become her friends. 

Ghana:  Freedom from Hunger

By Mei-ing Cheok

The Christian Rural Aid Network (CRAN) provides thousands of micro loans to women in rural and semi-urban areas through its Freedom from Hunger programme. George Tokpo, Director of Operations, says, “When we empower women, they are able to provide their families. We acknowledge that women are more responsible when it comes to the upbringing of their children.” Mr Tokpo added that women make better clients, “Women are able to find jobs much more easily than men. They’re a lot more adaptable. If one business fails, they will pick something else up very quickly. This lowers the likelihood of defaults.” (read more about how microfinance is empowering women in Ghana here)

CRAN team: Gifty (in charge of borrower profiles), George (Director of Operations) and Cecilia (journal updates)

Rwanda: Francoise’s Fabulous Story

By Adam Cohn

In the video blog, meet Francoise, who started selling bananas with her first loan and today, owns a provision shop, land and is on her way to starting a farm. This goal-driven woman is providing for her family of eight and doing a great job of it.

Armenia: A tale of two women

By Caree Edson

Hripsik in her hair salon

Women’s Day is also celebrated in Armenia and because the holiday falls on a Tuesday this year, the government has declared Monday a holiday as well ensuring a nice long weekend for everyone.  While inquiring about women borrowers who stand out in SEF’s history of lending, I was immediately directed to Hripsik Movsisyan and Raya Martirosyan. These women lead vastly different lives -one owns a salon in the city, while the other works on her family’s farm in the countryside- but both represent the warmth and strength that I have come to appreciate in the Armenian people.

Hripsik is a hardworking widow with two children. She opened a salon in 2009 and applied for a loan from SEF for an air-conditioner to make her salon more comfortable during the hot summer months in Yerevan. This was a great move for the business and Hripsik was able to pay off the loan years before it was due in full.

Raya with her family and their cattle

Raya Martirosyan has been teaching math in a school in a tiny town named Agarak for the past 30 years. Unfortunately, her family cannot survive on her low wages and her farm is necessary for additional income and stability. She applied for a loan to buy cattle and has been paying her loan back consistently since September.

These women represent the struggles that many Armenian families face and the risks and hard work involved in making ends meet.  This coming women’s day should be a celebration of all the women making sacrifices everyday to better the quality of life for themselves and their families.

Bolivia: Guadalupe Cárdenas, a Remarkable Woman

By Klaartje Vreeken

Guadalupe (in blue) and women from Comité Cívico Popular de la Ciudad de El Alto

Guadalupe Cárdenas was beaten up by a policeman and lost her child in 2002. Three years ago, she started a new institution called Comité Cívico Popular de la Ciudad de El Alto, which fights for women’s and their children’s rights in El Alto, the city above La Paz where many poor Bolivians live.

The first campaign Guadalupe started was helping poor mothers to baptize their babies and to get their legal papers. Her institution provides the dresses for the babies and has so far, baptized around 10,000 babies.

In 2010 Guadalupe also campaigned against cervical cancer. Using an ambulance, they screened around 3,500 women for cervical cancer For 400 women, the cancer had already reached an advanced stage. However, Guadalupe’s group also managed to detect early stages of cancer in around 1,000 women.

Mexico: Champion for the People

By John Farmer

Pily, she's no zombie

CrediComun’s Kiva Coordinator, Pily, is a strong young woman who took part in the UNAM (the largest university in Mexico) student demonstrations in 1999, when the university announced that tuition would rise from practically nothing to around $150 per semester.  “We were a generation that protested, that mobilized; we risked our lives for something more than selfish interests, and we refused to play the role of a zombie.”

Her resume further illustrates her activism: working with street children in Chiapas, building houses for (and with) the poor on the outskirts of Mexico City, and working in the organic food industry. She has served as Kiva Coordinator for six months, and is moving to a new position within the company — she’ll be developing the social projects that CrediComun undertakes.

Kyrgyzstan: Man’s Day

And finally, we do have a tribute to men. Check out Charlie Wood’s recent blog on how to be a manly man.

Happy International Women’s Day!

The contributors to this blog are part of KF 14 (the 14th class of Kiva Fellows) scattered around the world.

Find out how you can lend to a Kiva Entrepreneur or become a Kiva Fellow.

7 March 2011 at 15:38 8 comments

Update from the Field: Man’s Day, Singing Fellows + Learning How to Count

Compiled by Alexis Ditkowsky, KF14, South Africa

The Fellows will be covering International Women’s Day later this week but let’s take a moment to acknowledge its lesser-known cousin in Kyrgyzstan, “Man’s Day”. And while you’re appreciating culture and history in far-off places, take a trip to Peru and West Timor through photos, visit borrowers in Uganda and Rwanda through video, learn a little something about communicating in South Africa, and catch up on the latest from Liberia, Ghana, and Mexico (home to the “Singing Fellow”).

Continue Reading 7 March 2011 at 00:16 7 comments

Gone Fishing

What does the delicious piece of tuna sashimi you are about to pop in your mouth have to do with microfinance and alleviating poverty in Ghana? Perhaps more than you would expect.

 At a recent staff meeting at the Christian Rural Aid Network (CRAN), one of Kiva’s Field Partners, a loan officer from the Elmina branch said that the recent ban on light fishing was affecting their loan disbursements and repayments from some clients. My ears perked up.

The busy Elmina fish market

(more…)

2 March 2011 at 15:00 5 comments

Update from the Field: Videos, Epic Commutes + Going Beyond Microfinance

Compiled by Alexis Ditkowsky, KF14, South Africa

Another week, another incredible range of dispatches from around the world. Several Fellows told their stories with video and pictures while others took time to reflect on the state of microfinance as a global industry and in their respective countries. And what would a week in the field be without getting to know a few borrowers? Plus, scroll to the end of the post for pictures you may have missed the first time around.

Continue Reading 28 February 2011 at 00:38 10 comments

Last Week in the Field: “Christmas”, Trekking, Adversity + Good Company

Compiled by Alexis Ditkowsky, KF14, South Africa

Members of the 14th class of Kiva Fellows have officially hit their stride. While we never know where the next dispatch will come from or what interesting topics the Fellows will cover next, we always know we’ll be transported, entertained, and edified. This past week, topics included “Christmas”, trekking to a remote village (with video!), handling adversity (including a serious car accident and stolen electronics), and enjoying the company of loan officers, borrowers, and community members. Enjoy!

Continue Reading 21 February 2011 at 02:17 12 comments

Part 4: What is the industry doing to protect borrowers?

by Jacqueline Gunn

One of the biggest challenges in the microfinance industry is oversight and regulation on a macro scale. Whilst in countries like the US there are regulations to protect borrowers, this is often not the case in many of the countries where Kiva has field partners. Kiva can’t choose not to work in countries without credit agency regulations as these are often the places where the need for enabling access to credit for the poor is greatest.

So what is the industry doing to help to borrowers now and in the future?

Continue Reading 15 February 2011 at 12:00 2 comments

Hey, Soul Sisters!

By Mei-ing Cheok, KF14, Ghana

Let me  boldly proclaim that everyone in the developed world should experience what Kiva Fellows are fortunate enough to live and breathe. I guarantee you there will be less whining from all of us and perhaps, just perhaps, more effort to collectively improve the lives of our fellow humans…maybe. But definitely less whining, because when you see what we get to see, all our problems suddenly seem so small.

Watresa Village

On my first day out in the field, we drove to Watreso Village, about an hour from the office. Watreso is made up of a few houses, some made of mud, some cement and a few – newer ones – made of bricks. We’re there for the weekly credit association meeting run by Dominic, a loan officer with the Christian Rural Aid Network. This credit association, the AB/ADOM ARA KWA group is made up of 10 women. I got to speak to nine of them and I have since christened them the Soul Sisters because their stories are truly food for the soul: women trying to make ends meet and make a better life for themselves and their children.

Soul Sisters: AB/Adom Ara Kwa Credit Association with CRAN Loan Officer, Dominic

(more…)

14 February 2011 at 15:00 7 comments

Part 3: Borrower protection practices at Kiva partners

About a month ago, it seemed like all I heard about was clients’ denied loans, or who got loans significantly smaller than what they needed. At the time, I was concerned about how many people weren’t getting the finances they asked for. Then I heard about the suicides in India and was glad to know that the Kiva partner where I’m stationed carefully considers how much to lend each client.

Continue Reading 13 February 2011 at 12:00 1 comment

Have Tro Tro, Will Travel in Ghana

By Mei-ing Cheok, KF14, Ghana

With CRAN volunteer, Jonanthan, in tow, AB signals that he needs a ride for two

When I first arrived in Accra, Ghana about a week ago for my Kiva Fellowship, I had to find my way to Cape Coast, where my microfinance institute, Christian Rural Aid Network (CRAN), is located.  These were the instructions I got from Jacqueline, another Kiva Fellow, whom I was replacing at CRAN:

  1. Take a taxi across the road from the airport, not the ones right at the exit because they are more expensive
  2. Go to the STC bus station and get on a bus headed towards Cape Coast
  3. Alight at the Goil petrol station in Cape Coast.

I confess that once I got off the plane, I had no idea what I was doing; I was just winging it. In fact, I got all the above steps wrong. I took the expensive taxi and the cabbie convinced me to go to the “Ford” bus station* instead of STC and I got dropped off at the market instead of Goil.

*The bus station is really just a series of mini-buses parked in line next to a market. I was hit with a sensory overload by the throngs of people selling, shouting and jostling. The change in plans worked out well because the Ford buses left more frequently and travelled faster, so I arrived in Cape Coast earlier!

Navigating the public transport system here is an art. It’s very different from my home country, Singapore. For someone new to Ghana, it’d seem like you need a special code to make sense of what appears to be chaos, to get from Point A to Point B. It does help tremendously that Ghanaians speak English and they’re extremely friendly and helpful.

There are bus companies that provide scheduled trips and fixed fares. But the two main modes of transport that most people use for intra-city travel are informal services: share-taxis and tro tros.

Share-taxis

You can charter a cab, but it is costly: around GHC3-5 (US$1.90-$3.15). Share-taxis usually ply certain routes around town and pick up and drop off passengers at any point along the way. The fare, around 40 pesewas (US$0.25), is a fraction of what it’d cost to charter a cab. If the driver has a high turnover of passengers, he could potentially earn as much as, if not more than, if he were to have just one full-paying passenger.

But how would you know which cab or tro tro to flag down? HOW do you flag one down? Well, here’s the secret code: if you’re headed for the market in Kotokoraba (the main town and heart of Cape Coast) and you’re on a road that doesn’t lead directly to it, you point with your thumb in the direction of Kotokoraba. Also, if you’re with a friend, you indicate with two fingers that there are two passengers. If the taxi driver is headed in that direction and he has space, he would stop for you. If not, he’ll zip on by and you wait for the next taxi! (see pictures below)

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Tro tros

Now tros tros are vans that can accommodate more people – and are therefore, even cheaper – and they also ply longer routes, between towns.  They also serve as a delivery service! If someone in Kotoboraba wanted to send her mother a sack of oranges in Takoradi, which is about 2 hours away, she can pay the tro tro driver to deliver it for her. Also, letters delivered by tro tros arrive faster than those delivered by the postal service, which usually takes three days.

In spite of the complete and utter confusion I felt when I first arrived, not to mention a strong measure of fear, I somehow managed to find my way to Cape Coast thanks to some helpful Ghanaians.  The other volunteers and foreigners I have met here seem to be travelling around on their own quite comfortably. I haven’t reached that stage yet, but I’ll get there soon. I just have to jump right in… and hopefully get to the right destination!

Mei-ing has just arrived in Ghana, narrowly missing a massive Chinese New Year feast with the family back home in Singapore, but she is exploring the cuisine of Ghana with gusto. She is working with Kiva Field Partner, Christian Rural Aid Network (CRAN).

8 February 2011 at 14:00 16 comments

Florence’s dream

by Jacqueline Gunn, KF13, Christian Rural Aid Network, Ghana

Whenever I choose a not for profit to support, I always carry out in depth research before I commit. I read through their financial accounts to see how their money is spent, I search for stories that I think have a long term benefit- I’m a natural sceptic and I want the organisation to prove to me that the money will be spent well, I dislike waste. For me, the opportunity of being a Kiva fellow would allow me to be the ultimate investigator into microfinance and hopefully prove my sceptic side totally wrong.

Continue Reading 21 December 2010 at 11:00 2 comments

Food makes the world go around

by Jacqueline Gunn, KF13- Christian Rural Aid Network, Ghana

Food sustains people. Many thousands of individuals create a living through food production, distribution and on a large scale, exportation. People communicate and build communities through food- joining together to prepare a meal before sitting down together to enjoy it. In order to celebrate National Farmers Day today, I invite you read about agriculture in Ghana and join us for lunch (through the form of video!) at Christian Rural Aid Network in Cape Coast.

Continue Reading 3 December 2010 at 12:00 5 comments

As my Kiva fellowship concludes…

by, Zerrin Cetin, KF12 Ghana

When I embarked on my fellowship four months ago, I was excited but nervous. As with any new experience, the unknowns can be interesting, exhilarating, challenging and overwhelming all at the same time. With these feelings, I boarded my flight to Ghana. I had two simple objectives for my fellowship – help my MFI as much as I can and learn as much as I can. As my journal entry from my flight states, I wanted to learn about microfinance, Ghanaian culture, common characteristics that make us human, and myself. Though I’ve probably only scratched the surface on these lofty goals, I am surprised at how much these objectives shaped my fellowship experience. I’d like to take this final blog to share a little bit of what I’ve learned.

Continue Reading 2 December 2010 at 04:00 5 comments

The beat goes on…

by Jacqueline Gunn, KF13, Ghana
One of the first things I noticed about living in Ghana is the ebb and flow of sound. It feels like Ghana is living by a constant rhythm which is created in every household, on every street and every road.

Continue Reading 22 November 2010 at 12:00 6 comments

Prescriptions are not just for medicine

By Zerrin Cetin, KF12 Ghana

Obruni (Often yelled, “Ooobrruuuniii”). A word that meant nothing to me just three short months ago. Now, it is a word that induces feelings of happiness, anger, and indifference all at the same time. In Ghana, a foreigner is called obruni. Really, it is more of a greeting than anything. Admittedly, it took me a while to get used to being called obruni.

While my fellowship is providing me with a fantastic opportunity to learn about microfinance, this obruni example illustrates a part of my fellowship that I equally cherish – Living in a country very different than my own. This is pushing me to be open-minded despite how strange circumstances might seem at times. This openness, in turn, is pushing me to think about things that I had never thought about before. I think a recent experience illustrates this nicely. A very interesting question was posed to me by a Ghanaian. “Do you think my country will ever reach your country?”

Continue Reading 25 October 2010 at 04:00 9 comments

Macroeconomics Meets Microfinance

Zerrin Cetin, KF12 Ghana
In my time as a fellow, I expected to interview borrowers and hear lots of touching personal stories. I never expected to finally understand economics in a way textbooks never described it for me. Economics was not a course I chose to take. It was a mandatory credit I had to take. While I managed to memorize how supply and demand curves moved, for the life of me, I could not see the practical applications of economic theory. This was the case until a very special aha moment last week thanks to my field experiences and a fantastic discussion with CRAN’s Director of Microfinance. I finally understood the interplay of demand and supply at a very practical level. Upon reflection, I am starting to believe that a vital assumption for microfinance to be a success story is that there is continued excess demand in the marketplace. But what happens if supply exceeds demand?

Continue Reading 1 October 2010 at 04:00 15 comments

Non-Financial Costs and Benefits of a Kiva Partnership to an MFI

By Zerrin Cetin, KF12 Ghana

Like any business partnership, a partnership with Kiva brings both financial and non-financial benefits and costs to a Microfinance Institution (MFI). I believe that partnerships, whether personal or business, need partners’ values to align in order to succeed. So I will analyze this topic within the context of Kiva’s values – dignity, accountability, and transparency. The question I’d like to discuss is “What are the non-financial costs and benefits to an MFI in aligning with Kiva’s values of dignity, accountability, and transparency?” Since this blog represents my observations of one MFI partner (Christian Rural Aid Network – CRAN, in Ghana where I’m currently serving), I’d like to invite others to share their observations and enrich the discussion on this topic.

Continue Reading 10 September 2010 at 04:00 8 comments

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