Posts filed under ‘Nicaragua’

Different beginning and end of the year in Central America

When I hear the words “Christmas” and “end of the year” my mind quickly thinksabout Christmas trees, baby Jesus, cold, family, presents, snow and many more. When I ask the people from Centroamerica whatcomes to their mind with these same words they mostly answer the same, the only thing they change is they don´t say cold neither snow, and they normally include beach or river instead of them.

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1st January in Rivas, Nicaragua

After tough 3 months of work in El Salvador with Fundación Campo, Padecomsm and Integral I have just taken deserved holidays. Destination: South of Nicaragua. The reason for choosing it is because of its amazing beaches full of waves, its economic price, its cultural wealth and its proximity. And one more reason. Because it is close to the border with Costa Rica. My 3 months visa expired on 1st January. After seeing the endless points required by the Salvadorean government I decided to leave the C4 (EL Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala) in order to extend my days in El Salvador without being fined.DCIM100GOPRO

It was not an easy trip to destination. I waited for 5 hours to thebus that took me from El Salvador to Costa Rica (the engine broke before picking me up), 15 hours trip, 4 borders crossed (El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica) with payments in all of them and an unforgettable night with 1000 ants in a room in the border of Peñas Blancas. Without doubts, the worst room I have ever slept in. I highly recommend not to sleep in a border, it is not a good atmosphere to sleep in.

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But, ¿How important  is it when the image you see when you wake up is this?

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Captura de pantalla 2013-01-05 a la(s) 09.27.11

From Nicaragua I wish you a happy new year and a lot of Kiva love to all of you!

Captura de pantalla 2013-01-05 a la(s) 09.35.21

5 January 2013 at 07:51 1 comment

VIDEO – Kiva loans to sick ex-sugarcane workers in Nicaragua

by Luan Nio | KF18 Nicaragua | KF19 San Diego, USA

It’s November and the sugar cane cutting season has started in Nicaragua.

Even though I am back in my comfortable home in the US, I can’t stop thinking about the men all over Centroamerica who are now working the fields. They know they will develop Chronic Kidney Disease one day or another, often leading to dialysis, kidney transplantation and sometimes death. Yet the poverty level and scarce job opportunities in their region leave them with no other choice.

Read about it in a previous post I wrote About Nicaragua beer and rum – brought to you by Kiva clients.

Kiva now facilitates loans to these sick cane workers and the families they have left behind. You can lend to an ex-cane worker in Nicaragua here.

25 November 2012 at 21:24

My Week with Premal – Kiva’s President visiting borrowers and partners in Nicaragua

Luan Nio | KF18 | Nicaragua

He is named Global Young Leader by the World Economic Forum and is on the Fortune’s 40 under 40 list for the most influential people under the age of 40.
It is easy to become impressed, maybe intimidated by a person that holds such accolades. But Premal Shah, president of Kiva, is the last person to become intimidated by. However, impressed? Yes, highly. And he was coming my way to Nicaragua.

Premal Shah’s lender page on Kiva. Note that he made over 300 loans.

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24 September 2012 at 20:46 2 comments

About Nicaraguan beer and rum – brought to you by Kiva clients

By Luan Nio | KF18 | Nicaragua

One of the first things I always do when I arrive in a new country is trying out the local beer. Toña is a nice fresh beer and light to drink, but I like to spice it up as a Michelada, the Bloody Mary version of beer.

Toña – the local beer in Nicaragua

The local rum is truly delicious. The most famous brand is Flor de Caña and is best drunk pure with ice. It is also very common to order a bottle, a bucket of ice, lemon, salt and a gaseosa of choice and build your own cocktails at your table.

Build-your-own Flor de Caña cocktails at your table with a bucket of ice, lemon and salt. All of this for less than $10.

At the end of this blog post I will give you the recipes for Toña Michelada and Macua, my favorite Nica drinks. But let me first take you to the place where these drinks are produced, namely the oven of Nicaragua: the sugarcane fields in the west around the village of Chichigalpa.

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3 September 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.

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30 June 2012 at 11:03 4 comments

What’s next for KF16? (Part 1)

Compiled by Laurie Young, KF16, Indonesia

I know! We can’t believe it either! Our Kiva Fellowships, as the 16th class, have come to an end. So what’s in store for us once we return to our homes? Or perhaps, stay in the field for another fellowship? Read on for the next chapter in the lives of some of the 16th Class of Kiva Fellows Alumni.

Continue Reading 2 January 2012 at 08:00 3 comments

60 Tips from Kiva Fellows

Compiled by Kate Bennett, KF16 Peru

The sixteenth class of Kiva Fellows has all but left the field- but we’re by no means done talking about our experiences. We’ve collectively spent 422 weeks in the field (just over 8 years!) and worked an estimated 16,650 hours at Kiva field partners around the world.  Needless to say, we’ve got a lot of opinions about how to use this time wisely.

Now, we’re no experts in living or working abroad (though we sure do like it), but we have some nuggets of wisdom to offer up for those of you transitioning into a life abroad or beginning your next Kiva Fellowship. Stick by these tips, and you can’t go wrong. (And for more hints and tips, check out 33 Tips from Kiva Fellows (written November 2009) or 45 More Tips from Kiva Fellows in South America.) Enjoy!

Continue Reading 30 December 2011 at 04:00 6 comments

Update from the Field: Adapting for Borrowers by Borrowers, Microinsurance +SKFL

Compiled by Jim Burke, KF16, Nicaragua

A Warm Welcome! Manana offers the best from her garden. By DJ Forza, Georgia

This week’s Fellows Blog focuses on adaptability: Adapting microinsurance to poor households in Indonesia, an MFI in Turkey adapts to the needs of women entrepreneurs, a multifaceted borrower in Nepal adapts to market pressures, and a Kiva Fellow adapts to changing expectations. In a continuation of The Stuff Kiva Fellows Like series we hear how different fellows have adapted to their lives abroad by ‘crashing parties’ and ‘going to the Bazaar’. We hear about how practitioners are adapting finance and microinsurance products to their borrowers. Equally nimble we hear from a few borrowers and how they have expertly adapted to market pressures and changing circumstance. Microfinance is a dynamic industry by nature and like DJ or Binu or Maya Enterprise for Micro Finance, ensuring success means staying flexible and welcoming new opportunities born out of challenges. (more…)

28 November 2011 at 01:01 5 comments

Stuff Kiva Fellows Like #10-17

Compiled by Jim Burke, KF16, Nicaragua

We are Kiva Fellows. This is the stuff we like. Here is an insider (often critical, or satirical but always true!) view of what it means to be a Kiva Fellow and promote access to financial services around the world. From party crashing to bazaars to street food, these are the things we like and thrive on. Check out Stuff Kiva Fellows Like (SKFL) #1-9!

#10 Street Food

Mariela Cedeño, KF16, Cochabamba, Bolivia

I’m not really sure why, but there is something inherently appealing to a Kiva Fellow’s being about food that is prepared, cooked, and sold on the streets. Perhaps it’s the dubiously hygienic food preparation, the alternative cooking apparatus used to bring food to fire, or it’s ready availability and our relative laziness…wait, no, it’s actually our need to literally ‘taste’ the local culture. In our fits of street food deliriousness we are open and ready to taste all that our surroundings have to offer, however, we often find that the local fare may not quietly find a home in our stomachs. Thankfully, before leaving to our local assignments, our travel nurses reminded us that in times of intestinal woe, Cipro and other like antibiotics will be our best friend. They sometimes are, but because we are well versed in the dangers of overusing antibiotics and are haunted by nightmares of creating giant super bacteria that start kidnapping local women and children, we use them sparingly and wisely. (more…)

25 November 2011 at 16:00 6 comments

Update from the Field: New Products in Microfinance, Over-Indebtedness + Transparency

Compiled by Kathrin Gerner, KF16, Rwanda

This week on the Kiva fellows blog, start out by learning about three new microfinance products – microinsurance in Indonesia, higher education loans in the Philippines and green and water loans in Kenya. Continue on to Nepal to admire the handiwork of artisan borrowers. Make your way to Ecuador to find out more about the risk of indebtedness. Share the fellows’ personal experiences with the recent elections in Nicaragua and rush hour traffic in Uganda. Finish by taking a critical look at transparency in microfinance and Kiva’s responsibility with regards to transparency.

Continue Reading 15 November 2011 at 06:44 3 comments

Red and Black to Pink, Peace and Love: The Reign of Daniel

By Jim Burke, KF16, Nicaragua

Daniel Ortega just won a landslide victory to be reelected president of the Republic of Nicaragua.The elections have been wrought with controversy. Human rights groups, opposition parties and the international community doubt the authenticity and transparency of the elections and many citizens feel the elections where robbed by Ortega. Nobody is surprised.

It seemed clear, even impossible that Daniel Ortega would lose re-election. The Sandinista Party, FSLN, are by far the most powerful political party in Nicaragua. A very fragmented opposition offered voters little choice than to ‘continue the revolution’ with Daniel. Cause for alarm has been the amount of power consolidated by the Sandinistas after Sundays elections. The FSLN won 13 parliament seats while the strongest opposition party, PLI, only earned 6 seats. The PLC gained 1 seat and the ALN and APRE got nothing. Check out the full election results in the La Prensa.

So, how has the FSLN consolidated so much power under Daniel? (more…)

12 November 2011 at 01:33 4 comments

High-tops in The Commercial Jungle: The Life of a Shoe Salesman

by Jim Burke, KF16, Nicaragua

Marcial Salvador selling high-tops

Mercado Oriental spans 60 city blocks and is the largest in Central America. The market is a jungle of stalls, pushcarts, alleyways and low hanging clothes, fruits, and shoes. It’s a full sensory experience that is almost numbing in its frenetic energy. Flies on meats next to sexy new hair products, car parts and phone calls from the same vendor, sweet smells of fresh baked bread and shoe polish, this is where Marcial Salvador sells shoes.

Marcial Salvador has been working in this market in varying capacities for the last 45 years. He is a model borrower at AFODENIC and is on his 4rth Kiva Loan! (more…)

12 October 2011 at 16:21 4 comments

Stuff Kiva Fellows Like

Compiled by Jim Burke, KF16, Nicaragua

We are Kiva Fellows. This is the stuff we like. Here is an insider (often critical, or satirical but always true!) view of what it means to be a Kiva Fellow and promote access to financial services around the world. From alpaca fur to FSSs to ziplock bags, these are the things we like and thrive on.

#1 Being the first foreign person that somebody has ever seen in their life

Dave Weber, KF16, CambodiaSDC18999

Few life experiences will measure up to the one where a Kiva Fellow is   told that he or she is ‘the first foreigner that somebody has ever seen  in their life’ (TFFPTSHESITL).  This experience often comes  with having ones hair and skin touched, which people in our home countries don’t find nearly as interesting.  KFs know that their image will forever be bored into the mind of the Latino/African/Asian/MidEastern borrower since we assume they ‘never forget their first one.’
A Kiva Fellow will react to being TFFPTSHESITL in several ways.  They will utilize social media  to get the word out to 500 people in their friend list and possibly even engage the Stories from the Field blog to get the message out to potentially hundreds of thousands.  It will also be the first story they tell supporters and people back home.  Kiva Fellows will also often use the phrase, “I’m pretty sure I was the first foreign person to ever go there” when referring to locations, even if they’re talking about Machu Picchu or Angkor Wat or the running of the bulls or the Washington Monument.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to spend my holiday evening at a Cambodian air conditioned movie theater which I’m certain no foreign person has been to before and I will be TFFPTSHESITL to at least half of the moviegoers there to engage in the revelry entitled Cowboys vs. Aliens.   (more…)

7 October 2011 at 15:11 20 comments

Update from the Field: Starting Capital, Development Levels + Adventurous Borrower Visits

Compiled by Kathrin Gerner, KF16, Rwanda

This week on the Kiva fellows blog, start your journey in Indonesia and read about some early lessons of a Kiva fellow. Then continue on to the Americas to take part in El Salvador’s independence day celebrations, find out how to start a business with 26 cents in Honduras, learn about the different levels of development of Bolivia and Sierra Leone, and finally go on an adventurous borrower visit in Nicaragua.

Continue Reading 26 September 2011 at 05:01 6 comments

Borrower Verification–Part II (Mom, I Don’t Feel So Well)

“80% certainty is pretty good”, I thought, as I sent the information to Kiva’s home office in San Francisco.

“Yea, pretty good. But is it good enough?”

Would it be good enough for you?

(excerpt taken from Part I of Borrower Verification)

In a word….no. That is, it wasn’t good enough. Again, it’s not that anyone was making unfounded accusations or looking for something that wasn’t there. I say this because although Kiva does make a great effort to avoid any association with activities ranging from “less than 100% honest” to “blatantly fraudulent”, there’s really not a culture of doubt, suspicion or looking for fraud under every rock. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s just that in the Borrower Verification, there’s no room for uncertainty, and although 80% isn’t so bad for a junior high math quiz, it just doesn’t cut it for an official audit.

So with that, I headed back to the beginning. Data was gathered, details were compared and facts revisited to ensure consistency. Camera? Check. Loan details? Check. Photo of borrower? Check. Snack, small amount of cash, sun block and rain jacket? Check. Check. Check. Check.

Continue Reading 25 September 2011 at 07:00 8 comments

Borrower Verification–Part 1 (Locked Out)

Borrower Verification. Anyone who considers them-self to be a regular visitor to the Kiva Fellows Blog has most likely come across this topic on more than one occasion. It’s a common task to check off on the official TO-DO LIST of the average Fellow, and I, as a current member of the group, am no exception. Since most of us cringe ever so subtly at the sound of such titles as “auditor” or “microfinance cop”, however, we seem to try to put a more positive spin on the whole idea. After all, who wants to dwell on the shady side of the industry? As a collective group, we’re typically strong believers in the economic growth and productivity associated with supporting entrepreneurship on a micro level, as well as the benefits that come from supporting a “bottom-up” approach to development, one that provides struggling entrepreneurs with a way to lift themselves out of poverty. It’s that whole idea of “hey, stop your whining and pull yourself up by your bootstraps!” mixed with a softer-socially conscious-love your neighbor- peace, my brother-spread the wealth-fight the man-can’t we all just get along-teach them to fish-mentality. Ahhhh……such a harmonious blend.

Continue Reading 24 September 2011 at 07:00 8 comments

Cost of Kiva

There are 137 local microfinance institution partners around the world on the Kiva platform. Not only does each benefit from the access to a completely new universe of individual lenders, but they also receive loans with no interest charges from Kiva. This does not mean, however, that being a Kiva field partner comes without costs to the local institution. On the contrary, it often requires a significant amount of upfront expenses such as hiring of additional resources, training, and systems implementation, as well as the associated administrative and management expenses on a monthly basis.

Continue Reading 31 August 2011 at 14:00 3 comments

Updates from the Field: Loan Sharks, Snapshots + “the Country with a Smile”

Each Kiva borrower enjoys his or her own borrower profile page. We’ve all seen these pages: they acquaint us with the borrower’s story, plans for the future, country, and a photo in their business or home. Borrower profiles present us with a clear snapshot of the ebbs and flows of a borrower’s life. But how can we begin to flesh out what’s beyond the edges of the screen? On the Fellow’s blog, of course!

This week Kiva Fellows bring us a little closer to our borrowers. We try to walk in the shoes of those living under a dollar a day in Nicaragua. We learn about the power of accredited microfinance institutions for the average Ecuadorian. We get a glimpse (and a sample!) of traditional El Salvadorian fare. We marvel at brilliant images of borrowers in their element in Chile and Colombia. And finally we depart Latin America for Senegal, where a Latin phrase can teach us about entrepreneurs the world over: they can, because they think they can. And they do, just as soon as they have the capital to do it.

Continue Reading 29 August 2011 at 02:00 8 comments

One Dollar Per Day, A Beginner’s Guide (Part 2)

By Jason Jones, Kiva Fellow (Nicaragua)

This is the second in a two-part series. To read Part 1, please follow this link.

……..So what does a life based upon one dollar (or 1 and a quarter or two) per day really look like? That’s mainly what I ask myself. Beyond that, how does one go about living on one dollar per day? Could I personally live on one or two dollars per day? In all fairness, I should probably say that I’ve never actually tried, nor do I have any real desire to do so (I suspect I’m not alone on that one). I mean I do try to keep things relatively “simple” on the average. I go from point A to point B on two wheels rather than four. I afford myself very few “luxuries” such as new clothes or cutting edge electronic devices (nope, no smart phone for this guy. Mine is ignorant at best). Come to think of it, I’ve all but stopped going to any restaurant that charges more than four or five dollars per entree. But despite such “drastic approaches” to life, even my modest rent of two dollars and fifty cents per day automatically disqualifies me from the official dollar per day club. Throw in another five or so for food, one for gas and another for such things as phone and internet, and I’m not even close to the cutoff. Based upon those numbers alone, I’m living a life of luxury.

According to most statistics, however, nearly half the population of Nicaragua IS living on less than two dollars per day. How do they do that? What does that actually look like? (taken from Part 1)……..

Continue Reading 17 August 2011 at 08:00 3 comments

One Dollar Per Day – A Beginner’s Guide (Part 1)

By Jason Jones, Kiva Fellow, Nicaragua

(This entry is the first in a two-part series. The second will be published in the coming week.)

I have a running debate with my girlfriend regarding the Nicaraguan class system. Usually, it comes up as we’re driving around Managua. We’ll be cruising around a particular neighborhood when one of us will begin speculating as to the economic classification of the area, based solely upon its outward appearance. For example, I always claim that the neighborhood I currently call home is “middle class”, basing my assessment on such factors as select individuals owning their own vehicles, most houses having non-dirt floors, and in the majority of cases, at least one family member finding him/herself with the luxury of reporting to work on a daily basis. My girlfriend, on the other hand, looks around at the number of individuals sleeping on the sidewalk at any given moment or the neighborhood’s reputation for being especially high in crime and subsequently assigns it a rating of “upper lower class”. Of course, being as though neither of our respective opinions is actually based upon any real economic study or indicator, we are probably both wrong. That being the case, however, I continually find myself speculating about such things, especially when I hear someone use that well-known phrase of “One Dollar Per Day”.

It’s difficult to get very deep into any poverty-related discussion these days without this phrase making an appearance. It’s cited in anti-poverty campaigns all over the world, it’s touted by numerous celebrities and spokespersons, it makes its way into most studies of the official variety and it’s even listed in the FIRST objective of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. One dollar per day. There it is. Sometimes, it’s listed as “A dollar twenty-five per day” or “Two dollars per day”, and the scale can certainly change depending on the source. What remains consistent, though, is the idea. And in this case, the idea is really just a tool by which to measure one’s economic activity.

So what does a life based upon one dollar (or one and a quarter or two) per day really look like? That’s mainly what I ask myself. Beyond that, how does one go about living on one dollar per day? Could I personally live on one or two dollars per day? In all fairness, I should probably mention that I’ve never actually tried, nor do I have any real desire to do so (I suspect I’m not alone on that one). I mean I do try to keep things relatively “simple” on the average. I go from point A to point B on two wheels rather than four. I afford myself very few “luxuries” such as new clothes or cutting edge electronic devices (nope, no smart phone for this guy…..mine is ignorant at best). Come to think of it, I’ve all but stopped going to any restaurant that charges more than four or five dollars per entrée. But despite such “drastic approaches” to life, even my modest rent of two dollars and fifty cents per day automatically disqualifies me from the official dollar per day club. Throw in another five or so for food, one for gas and another for such things as phone and internet, and I’m not even close to the cutoff. Based upon those numbers alone, I’m living a life of luxury.

Continue Reading 6 August 2011 at 07:00 5 comments

Update from the Field: Zulu Weddings, More Country-Specific Microfinance + Fighting Crime

Compiled by Kathrin Gerner, KF15, Togo

Learn about the tradition of Zulu weddings in South Africa. Find out how Kiva’s partners adapt the concept of microfinance to fit their country’s specific needs: from loans targeting borrowers affected by emigration in Ecuador, over a preference for group loans in El Salvador, to lending coupled with various training programs in Rwanda. Finish off your weekly reading by learning about crime-fighting Kivans in Nicaragua.

Continue Reading 4 July 2011 at 02:30 8 comments

Fighting Crime…..Kiva Style

It all started on Friday night. After a very brief visit to an event celebrating the grand opening of a vegetarian café/yoga center here in Managua (certainly one of a kind for the region), I found that I was unable to insert the key into the driver’s side door. A few seconds later, I realized that this was the result of someone having forced a screwdriver into the lock, rendering it nonfunctional.

“Uh oh,” I thought, “this can’t be good.”

Expecting the vehicle to now be unlocked and subsequently empty, I pulled on the handle.

“Hey, good news! It’s still locked. Maybe they weren’t able to get in!”

It was true. The doors were indeed locked. The window, on the other hand, had proven to be slightly less formidable. And with that, I suddenly found myself with a few less possessions in the world.

Continue Reading 1 July 2011 at 17:00 4 comments

Updates from the Field: Roads, Remittances + the “Little Paris” of Togo

Last week our internationally-scattered Kiva Fellows introduced us to some of the men and women that compose the sixty countries in which Kiva works. From the woman in Cameroon who represents the strength of her nation; to the Phillipino men that must migrate from their country to make a living; to the young men and women of Uganda who show us a glimpse of raw entrepreneurialism and hope. We also see how a nation’s people are brought together, whether by a common and incredible credit culture in Nicaragua, or by the dream for Togolese roads to one day connect people, markets, and credit throughout the country. From roads to remittances, Fellows learn there is more to microfinance than world markets and interest rates, and that human factors are tipping the scales of success for microfinance in all corners of the world.

Continue Reading 27 June 2011 at 02:00 7 comments

A Different (Credit) Culture

By Casey Cline, KF 15, Nicaragua

Leaving behind a developed country that is still trying to deal with the effects of its credit-obsessed culture, I was very interested in seeing first-hand what type of relationship with credit I would find in the developing world. Most would agree that Nicaragua has a recent history marked by political instability, and partially as a result, has an economy that has experienced years of slow (and often negative) growth. As might be expected, the presence of microfinance here is essential to the stagnant economy, providing small business owners much needed capital to survive and ultimately thrive.

As a Kiva Fellow working with a well-established field partner, Fundación Leon, the experiences I was looking forward to most were being out in the field, meeting with entrepreneur borrowers and hearing their stories. I was fortunate to do just that on a recent trip to Chinandega and then further north to the Honduran border town, Somotillo. In all, I met with six clients of Fundación Leon (these are the borrowers of the loans made through the Kiva website). I reached several of these borrowers by traveling across fields, through woods, and over small tributaries on the back of a motorcycle.

A very appreciative Genara

The first entrepreneur I met, Genara, used her loan to buy a new motor for her family’s fishing boat (which is more like a rowboat with a motor). I didn’t understand why she was at home and not at the market selling her husband’s catches. What I learned was that she recently had an operation and was not able to leave the house. Amazingly, in anticipation of not being able to work for much of the month, Genara made her monthly payment in advance (no easy feat, when you’re earning barely enough to meet your daily living expenses).

Evert and his 'motivation'

Another Fundación Leon client, Evert, is one of the minority of men to whom this Kiva field partner lends. He is a young husband and father of a two-year old boy. Evert’s house was little more than a one-room cement structure with a small backyard of packed dirt. When I first arrived, he was out selling some of his goods (rice, beans, flour, etc.) in the market. I told his wife, who was caring for their son, that I would come back around lunchtime. When I returned and interrupted his lunch, Evert graciously explained how helpful his loan had been to help buy new grain products that he could then sell to his clients that he has diligently cultivated over the last five years. His primary focus is to grow his business in order to provide a better home for his family.

During these visits, I was struck by the different attitude towards credit when compared with many borrowers from a developed country like the United States. These loans are the lifeline of their family. Clearly neither Genara nor Evert are looking to leverage up to take an exotic vacation, purchase a second home, or buy the latest electronic gadget. Rather, for them credit is a means of survival. How is Genara going to put food on the table? And how can Evert keep the rain from leaking though his roof or provide shoes for his growing child? These entrepreneurs depend on your small loans to maintain and hopefully grow their businesses. When you ask each borrower about their dreams, it typically begins and ends with an earnest desire to improve the well-being of their family.

Additionally, the importance Nicaraguan entrepreneurs place on servicing their loans is remarkable. In many ways, I believe it is inherent in the culture here to pay one’s debts, as a matter of course. But, it is also quite practical. These borrowers realize that if they become delinquent or even worse, default, there’s a chance they will not be able to get another loan. If that were to happen, the ripple effect to the welfare of the family could be devastating. At least partially as a result, the historical default rate in Nicaragua for all the loans in Kiva’s portfolio is less than one-half percent. Compare this to borrowers in the developed world where default rates reached the high single digits (and beyond) for various loan types over the last several years.

Surely as my fellowship continues and I become more involved in the microfinance industry here, my views on Nicaraguan entrepreneur borrowers and their relationship with credit will continue to evolve and be shaped. Regardless of the differences I have noticed with the developed world, there is little doubt that the culture of credit in Nicaragua is one that is very much dependent on the microloans that each Kiva lender helps provide.

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Casey Cline is a Kiva Fellow (KF 15) working with Fundación Leon 2000 in Leon, Nicaragua.  If you would like to learn more about Fundación Leon 2000, please visit its partner page.  You can also show your support by joining the Fundación Leon 2000 lending team.

23 June 2011 at 03:15 1 comment

Update from the Field: Unsung Heroes, Community Alliances + and Mission Statements Made Reality

Compiled by Kate Bennett, KF15, Ecuador

The Pros and Cons of Microfinance – A View From The Field: Fixing the chain on the way to a repayment meeting in Haiti. Poor roads thwart borrowers and MFI loan officers alike.

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.

Nathan’s Office
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:

Colombia, by Nick Hamilton

Abdoulaye, UIMCEC Loan Officer at the Yoff Branch

Senegal, by Tim Young

Nicaragua, by Jason Jones

Edward, another Juhudi Kilimo loan officer, visits farmers in Kisii.

Kenya, by Nila Uthayakumar

30 May 2011 at 02:00 1 comment

A Rainy Day in Masaya

By Jason Jones, KF15, Nicaragua

It’s Wednesday, the third day of my Kiva Fellowship here in Nicaragua.  After a short ride on a motorcycle, a relatively long walk, two different vans (OK…so the first one MAY have been due to an error on my part) and one taxi, I’ve finally arrived to a small meeting area outside the town of Masaya.  As I enter the gathering, I find approximately twenty women sitting around a U-shaped arrangement of tables.  They are the “entrepreneurs”, the owners of small businesses that have come today for a training session on the topic of Business Development.  Unlike me, they seem to have arrived in a relatively timely manner despite the morning rain.  Fortunately, they don’t judge too harshly.

A Day of Business Development

To understand why we are here today, I should probably begin with a brief explanation.  With an overall mission of connecting people through lending to alleviate poverty, Kiva partners with 133 microfinance institutions in 60 countries throughout the world.  After making a loan through the Kiva website, these funds make their way from the lender (you?)……to Kiva……to a local MFI…….to individuals such as those sitting in front me on this rainy morning in Central America.  By receiving such loans, these women are given the opportunity to grow, improve, or enhance their businesses for the economic benefit of themselves and their families.

As for the reason behind MY particular presence, that’s a slightly different story.  Through Kiva’s Fellowship Program, individuals such as me are sent to the various field partners (MFIs such as ADIM) in one of those 60 countries I mentioned before.  I would describe the actual work of the fellows as a combination of such roles as accountant, journalist, photographer/videographer, customer service liaison, globetrotter, business consultant, and auditor.  It involves such objectives as being Kiva’s “eyes and ears in the field” and “increasing the impact of Kiva’s global mission”, but in the end really just comes down to creating or maintaining a connection between those four distinct groups in the Kiva model; lenders, Kiva, MFIs, and borrowers.  Two weeks ago, while participating in a training session at Kiva’s central office in San Francisco, I was wondering why I hadn’t dressed more appropriately for the cold weather.  Today, I find myself sweating in the tropics.

As I am continually learning as a relative newcomer to the world of microfinance, NOT ALL MICROFINANCE INSTITUTIONS ARE CREATED EQUAL.  Of course, when evaluating a particular organization, one always wants to consider such obvious factors as geographic location, size, history, portfolio yield, return on assets, operational sustainability, and that ever-present struggle between the red and black numbers at the bottom of the page.  But in a world of mission statements often describing a particular institution’s reason for existence with such phrases as “improving quality of life to specific sectors”, “helping the poor to improve their livelihood”, and “offer financial services to marginalized communities”, the often overlooked SOCIAL PERFORMANCE of an organization remains a vital component of an accurate assessment.

ADIM is a microfinance institution dedicated to entrepreneurial development, especially of female entrepreneurs in peripheral urban and rural areas, to help them move towards transcendence, personal affirmation and evolution into more equitable relationships.

This is the mission statement of ADIM, a small microfinance institution located in Nicaragua.  ADIM has been operating in the area for 22 years now and believes strongly that although financial assistance is certainly an important piece, it’s not the entire puzzle.  For this reason, they offer their clients (90% of which are women) classes on such topics as identity and self esteem, economic independence, basic accounting, and a variety of themes involving success in the marketplace.  Today as I make my entrance, they are giving testimonials with regard to how previous sessions have positively impacted their lives and businesses.  After listening for several minutes and giving an impromptu introduction, I ask if anyone in the group has been the recipient of a Kiva loan.  One has to remember that although a number of ADIM’s clients do receive loans through Kiva, there are also those that do not.  After a moment or two of puzzled looks from the majority of those present, four hands eventually go up.  Today, amongst this group of twenty borrowers, it looks as though Kiva has been responsible for 20% of the loans.  From there, the stories begin.

Maura with her flowers

Maura is a 39 year old florist who has come today with her teenage daughter.  15 years ago, in an attempt to learn the trade, she began working in local flower shops around Managua.  Since no one was willing to pay her for her work at that time, she simply acted as free labor until she gained enough knowledge to be on her own.  Although her business remains very small to date, she tells me that it has grown considerably from what it was in the beginning.  With her recent loan through Kiva, she’s excited for the opportunity to boost her inventory in preparation for what is perhaps the largest day for the floral industry here in Nicaragua, namely Mother’s Day.

A few of Gloria's purses

Another one of today’s attendees is 23 year old Gloria, who began working with leather several years ago.  What began with an initial focus on shoes quickly grew to include purses, wallets, belts, hats, briefcases, etc.  In 2010 she, along with two other members of her borrower-group, received an $800 loan from Kiva.  With the subsequent improvements to her business and her increased knowledge through ADIM’s training program, Gloria went on to qualify for an additional $1500 in the form of an international grant.  Now with a new workshop to call her own and further recognition that has come recently in the local media, she claims that business is better than ever.

I could certainly go on.  Adelfa mentions that her Kiva loan has allowed her to purchase beauty products of much higher quality to sell in her small store.  As a result, her profit margin has increased significantly.  Through a separate Kiva loan, Mayra has been able to raise her inventory as well.  In her business of “intimate apparel”, she too reports that sales are up and talks of potential loans in the future.

And so the day continues.  We complete the testimonials, several educative sessions, lunch, and a demonstration of products by a number of the entrepreneurs.  Before the inevitable departure, the group is given one final surprise in the form of being serenaded with several songs from Mayra, all in honor of the upcoming Mother’s Day.  As I make my way back to Managua, I see that the rain has stopped, and I experience a small victory of my own by successfully boarding the right bus in the right direction.  While traveling in the northern direction, I can’t help but reflect upon the day.  I think it’s fair to say that the borrowers represented by today’s cross section would not be considered to be OVERTLY successful by much of the world’s standard.  For the most part, they are simply owners of very small businesses trying to make it from one month to the next.  Is microfinance the answers to ALL of their problems?  Of course not.  Is immediate radical transformation experienced following a simple training seminar?  Most likely, no.  But from what I’ve witnessed over the last 8 hours, I have to say that this group is certainly heading in the right direction.  At some point and in some form, a positive difference is being made along the way.  And for that, I also have to say that despite the afternoon showers, it’s been a pretty nice day.

Now…..which one is my stop??

25 May 2011 at 12:00 3 comments

Update from the Field: Personal Connections, Supply and Demand + A Culinary Excursion

Compiled by Kathrin Gerner, KF15, Togo

As the 14th class passes the baton to the 15th class, the Kiva fellows are sharing their final thoughts and first impressions. Be inspired by the personal connections Kiva creates between lenders and borrowers in Nepal and Sierra Leone. Find out how a phenomenal harvest can prevent farmers in Nicaragua from repaying their loans. Discover the creative ways of assessing credit worthiness used in Uganda and around the globe. Sample local customs and cuisine, while reading about the Day of the Child in Mexico and taking a culinary excursion in Liberia. Lastly, share the experiences of Kiva fellows across three continents in Colombia, Ghana and Ukraine.

Continue Reading 23 May 2011 at 01:10 3 comments

Kiva Farmers: A Tale of Irony and Woe in Nicaragua

 

Onions and more onions.

 

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.

Tomatoes left to rot in the field.

 

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.

Imported tomatoes can be found in supermarkets in Managua.

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.

A Kiva borrower's home filled with onions, waiting for a buyer.

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

8 May 2011 at 11:07 5 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

Update from the Field: Trash, Delicious Treats + Community Outreach

Compiled by Alexis Ditkowsky, KF14, South Africa

Let’s take a moment to vicariously consume baked goods in Colombia, coffee in Nicaragua, tomatoes in Ukraine, and a traditional meal in Nepal. Once you’re sated, you can read about the dismal state of trash collection in Guatemala, the lives of borrowers in Bolivia, what “mobile” savings really means in Indonesia, and how Kiva’s partner MFIs all around the world are providing life-enhancing services and engaging with the community in meaningful ways.

Continue Reading 18 April 2011 at 00:40 4 comments

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