Posts filed under ‘Innovation’

Young Kenyan Entrepreneurs at the Forefront of Tech Innovation

        Young Kenyans are harnessing their country’s growing tech prowess to go into business for themselves.  For example, Jamila Abbas and Susan Oguya, created a mobile application called M-Farm. The application allows Kenyan farmers to access real time market information, buy farm inputs from manufacturers and find buyers for their produce, all through SMS.  Lorna Rutto started EcoPost, a company that turns plastic waste into durable fencing posts, an environmentally friendly alternative to timber.  At Strathmore University, Kenya’s leading institution for business and accounting, many students are interested in pursuing traditional career tracks like joining the ranks of major financial firms, but quite a few are just as eager to start their own enterprises like Jamila, Susan and Lorna.  On a recent afternoon on campus, I sat down with Asha Mweru to discuss Chochote, an e-commerce platform that she launched with her classmates Ivy Wairimu and Victor Karanja.  Chochote, which is the Swahili word for “anything,” started as a simple classroom assignment.

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The Chochote Team: Asha Mweru, Ivy Wairimu and Victor Karanja
(Photo Credit: Katrina Shakarian)

        The team of 4th year Strathmore students sought to connect buyers and sellers on a platform based on excellent customer service, discounted prices and home delivery.  Currently, it targets consumers between the ages of 18 and 48.  Chochote’s tagline is “not just anything.” It’s transitioning from offering a wide range of products like electronics, cosmetics and clothing to a narrower, more particular supply of unique crafts, jewelry and fashion items, similar to Etsy. Ivy explained that, “Kenyans are very specific [about] what they are buying.  So, we [investigated and] found out what the specifics are,” then decided to re-brand.

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        The project has received support from the IDEA Foundation and ilab Africa’s business incubation center at Strathmore.  Currently, they get between 600 and 900 hits a day and hope to reach the likes of popular Kenyan e-commerce sites like Uzanunua and Online Shopping. Their foreseeable goals include increasing their suppliers, expanding to reach consumers across the region and establishing a Chochote mobile application.  After all, Kenyans are just beginning to warm up to the idea of online shopping. “Since everything is going virtual, why should Kenya only shop at Amazon? Why shouldn’t we have our own thing here? Kenyans between the age of 18 and 48 have accepted that the internet is here, it’s here and sure to be used. They’re accepting it, so let’s grow with them,” said Asha.

        Nonetheless, online shopping is a very new concept here.  “Kenyans are still quite skeptical towards e-commerce and this is a challenge we’ve had to take head-on,” said Asha.  Other challenges faced by the team include accessing seed capital, establishing relationships with reliable suppliers and remaining abreast of clients’ changing preferences. On a macro level, the team points to the current state of Kenyan primary and secondary education as a hurdle to overcome too.  In conversations with Kenyans, I’ve personally heard that there’s more of an emphasis on memorization than critical thinking.  According to Victor, “Someone once said that our education system is meant to produce employees not employers.  Notable, however, is the number of Kenyan entrepreneurs that circumvent these challenges therefore making it easier for the rest of us.”

        Despite these challenges, the Chochote team would not have it any other way.  “Honestly, I’ve never liked the idea of being micro-managed, and solving a problem and actually seeing the solution being implemented gives me a thrill,” said Victor. The team explained that the most exciting part of entrepreneurship is the ability to create employment opportunities rather than compete for limited slots that are already there. Ivy’s dream is not only to see Chochote become profitable, but to ensure that it expands enough to generates jobs. “Through our work with Chochote, [we'd like to] build a successful e-commerce model that can be replicated within Kenya and Africa at large.”

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The Chochote team at Strathmore University Business School
(Photo Credit: Katrina Shakarian)

        Perhaps, the team’s experience will have them avoiding 9-5′s forever.  They’re part of a new generation of Africans who are inspired by the likes of Muhamed Yunus, public intellectual Dambisa Moyo and the founder and CEO of Open Quest Media, June Arunga, among others.  Both women were chosen by Forbes Magazine to be among the 20 Youngest and Most Powerful Women in Africa.  In addition to the rise of visible role models that they can relate to on the global stage, their immediate environment is more conducive to innovation than ever.  In Kenya, sky’s the limit.

5 April 2013 at 09:57 1 comment

Kiva’s Investment in Non-Traditional Loan Products

Water and Sanitation may not be the first issue that people associate with Kiva.

Continue Reading 27 December 2012 at 09:37 1 comment

Grameen Foundation and Kiva: Partnering to Bring Life-Changing Agricultural Information to Rural Communities in Uganda

Laura Sellmansberger | KF19 | Uganda

CKWs training for their new roles

CKWs in Masaka practice using their new equipment (photo credit Ravi Agarwal)

Kiva recognizes the unique power of the interest-free capital it provides through its lenders. The zero-interest aspect of Kiva’s loans enables its partners to act boldly and to try new things, to go the extra mile to reach new groups of people, and to fund loans that Kiva characterizes as highly catalytic. Kiva uses the term highly catalytic to describe initiatives that not only help to provide financial independence to the poor, but also produce far-reaching effects that transform the lives of the people in the borrowers’ communities. Such loans may contribute to green energy and solar power endeavors, education initiatives, water sanitation projects or even agro-technology advancements.

Grameen Foundation is an organization that is going above and beyond to bring highly catalytic programs to Uganda. For this reason, Kiva has chosen to make Grameen Foundation AppLab its first nontraditional partner here. Starting this week, participants in Grameen Foundation’s Community Knowledge Worker (CKW) program will be featured on Kiva.org.

The CKW program is made up of a network of peer-nominated “farmer leaders” across Uganda who use mobile devices to share expert agricultural information with their small-holder farmer neighbors living on less than $2 a day. Community Knowledge Workers use the information provided by applications on their smartphones to help their fellow farmers improve crop yields and to reduce the costs of adopting new agricultural practices.

The CKWs also collect information from the farmers in their communities through phone-based surveys. This information is then used to help other poverty-focused organizations that Grameen Foundation works with, including government organizations and NGOs, improve and expand support services for farmers. The CKWs are paid small monthly salaries based on the number of information searches and surveys they complete. These salaries supplement – and sometimes even double – the amount that the CKWs earn as smallholder farmers themselves.

What a CKW might see on his or her phone

As a Kiva Fellow working at Grameen Foundation, I have had the opportunity to observe the mechanisms of this project first-hand, and to see just how much work goes into the maintenance and expansion of this incredible program. Over the course of the past five weeks, I have accompanied Grameen Foundation field officers on multiple trips to the central Ugandan district of Masaka. During these trips, I was able to see the various steps taken while selecting and preparing a CKW for his or her new role.

1. Community Mobilization

During this critical phase, Grameen Foundation field officers first meet with community leaders in the area and explain the CKW program to them, as well as the positive change that it will bring to the community. After obtaining buy-in from these influential people (which is absolutely imperative to the success of the program), a time and place are then identified for a village meeting, which takes place about one week later. The village meeting can last anywhere from a few hours to the entire day. A Grameen Foundation field officer explains the CKW program to the attendees and ensures that the program will have adequate support from the community. After confirming this, a date and time are set for a recruitment meeting, during which a CKW will be selected to serve his or her village.

Grameen field officer Ian explains the CKW program to a group of villagers

Grameen Foundation field officer Ian Mubiru explains the CKW program during a village meeting

2. Recruitment

The recruitment meeting should be heavily attended. If enough people fail to show up to constitute a fair vote, the meeting must be rescheduled (this is quite common since time and information are managed in a very different manner here than you readers may be used to – I must say, the Grameen Foundation field officers are some of the most patient people I have ever met!). If enough people attend the meeting, then the nominations can begin. The Grameen Foundation field officer lists the prerequisites that an individual must have to effectively serve his or her community as a CKW, and also explains what kinds of additional qualities voters should look for in their candidate (someone who has served the community in the past, someone who is reliable and can be trusted, etc.). The nominees each make a speech touting their qualifications, and then the voting commences. Things can become quite heated at this stage, as people may have starkly different opinions on who should be selected for the position. After voting takes place, a winner is announced. A Grameen Foundation field officer then visits the CKW’s home to discuss the details of the position with his or her family, since the role is time-consuming and family support is essential.

CKW candidates make their speeches

CKW candidates make their speeches during a recruitment meeting

3. Training

After the CKWs have been selected by their communities, a training session is held for each district. I went to the four-day training in Masaka, which was attended by 47 CKWs from the surrounding villages. During training, CKWs are shown how to operate and take care of their materials (the smartphone, solar charging device and weighing scale). Innovative farming techniques are discussed and participants are prepped for their new roles as information agents and community leaders. The Grameen Foundation training team is absolutely extraordinary – they spend weeks at a time on the road, teach sessions late into the evening, and never lose their enthusiasm or patience. Since this is the first group of CKWs who are to be funded by Kiva loans, I also had the opportunity to give a presentation on Kiva and its backing of the CKW program. The response was incredible and the CKWs warmly showed their appreciation for Kiva’s support by giving me a wonderful handwritten letter on the last day of training.

CKW training in Masaka

CKW training in Masaka (photo credit Ravi Agarwal)

Explaning Kiva to the Masaka CKWs

Explaining Kiva to the Masaka CKWs (photo credit Ravi Agarwal)

CKWs practice using their new equipment

CKWs practice using the smartphones (photo credit Ravi Agarwal)

Some dedicated CKWs even brought their children with them to training

A few dedicated CKWs even brought their children with them to training                          (photo credit Ravi Agarwal)

Masaka CKWs express their thanks for Kiva's support

The Masaka CKWs express their appreciation for Kiva’s support

On the last day of training. Excitement is in the air!

The last day of training. There was so much excitement in the air!

The CKW initiative is a program that is truly in line with the broader mission of Grameen Foundation: to enable the poor, especially the poorest, to create a world without poverty. Information is power, and by creating access among rural farmers to information, Grameen Foundation empowers them to create better economic conditions for themselves, their families, and their communities. You can be part of these efforts, too – lend to a CKW today on Kiva.org!

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Laura Sellmansberger is a member of the 19th class of Kiva Fellows, working at Grameen Foundation in Kampala, Uganda.

12 November 2012 at 10:14 2 comments

Expectations, (harsh) realities, engagement and innovation

Diana Biggs | KF 18 | Burkina Faso

I’d like to think the title of this post sums up my experience in Burkina Faso – perhaps even both professional and personally. I’ll focus on the former here and try to take you through my journey.

Expectations: As a Kiva Fellow, it’s likely you’re a Type A (if on the quirky end), dedicated, well-traveled, highly educated young person, perhaps an experienced professional looking to Pivot (see Patrick’s post for more on that) or mid-studies in a Masters program. Whilst maintaining the flexible state of mind necessary for the field – many in our class were paired with new Field Partners, some in countries where Kiva staff had yet to visit – there are naturally certain expectations or goals set for this commitment. For me, having done research and proposals from a London office, I wanted to see how microfinance programs were actually implemented on the ground.

Ouagadougou street

Walking to work in my first week in Ouaga…

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9 October 2012 at 08:00

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

Technology in the Field: the Future of Microfinance

Varick Schwartz | KF18 | Kenya

Kiva profile photo from mobile app

When I applied to the Kiva Fellows program, I knew I’d be spending some time ‘in the field’, but I didn’t know I’d be out there transmitting Kiva profile information from a mobile tablet to Google’s Open Data Kit (ODK) platform!  After writing an automated survey interface and configuring the Android device, next I was on the farm with a loan officer collecting borrower responses, which were uploaded straight to the internet, Kiva photo included. Well done Juhudi Kilimo (my assigned MFI) for the foresight and motivation to put this in play, well done Kenya for providing the comprehensive mobile platform and welcome to the future of microfinance! (more…)

12 September 2012 at 08:00 6 comments

Credit Scoring in Kenya: observations and comparisons from the field

Varick Schwartz | KF18 | Kenya

My Fellowship workplan has been focused a little more on the technical side of things, with more application programming and appraisal analysis than borrower verifications. From such projects, and also because I come from a banking, lending and risk management background, it seems fitting to at least put forth some observations regarding the use of credit scores across the Kenya micro landscape. However, the way we approach credit scoring in the USA is almost opposite from current practices here, where aggregated financial data at the individual level could still be years away. (more…)

30 August 2012 at 09:00 2 comments

Is Microfinance a boon or bane..? My learnings from the field

With mixed emotions not knowing what to expect from the fellowship I headed to India… A sense of excitement for being a part of the launch, a sense of happiness for being able to be with my family after a long time and a disappointment for not having as much excitement as others who are traveling to new countries. But eight weeks in to the fellowship has completely changed this.

I always wondered how far microcredit actually helped alleviate the lives of the poor especially after the SKS Microfinance crisis in Andhra Pradesh. There has been a lot of criticism that this industry was full of profit motivated rather than socially focused players. So, I always wanted to understand what would make micro finance perform stronger socially.The reason I say my fellowship was rewarding is because I had all these questions answered through my eyes and ears in the process of being Kiva’s Eyes and Ears on field.

Two weeks back I was juggling between profile posting, field visits, group photos, and field staff training. Amidst this time crunch phase, a visit to the local weekly market came as liberation. It was so colorful and vibrant may be because 40% of the vendors were women selling vegetables, bangles, local snacks, cooking utensils   etc…

Bangles of all sizes and colors that must be worn to complete your Indian attire…
Locally popular snacks pakora(onions and batter of gram flour mixed and fried in oil) and wada(lentil doughnut)

The aromas(including of stinking dry fish), haggling noises and  people around did not irritate me somehow.Seemed like a perfect recipe for a break. Every 2 shops that we passed by, the branch manager would introduce me to some woman  telling me that she is their client and started/grew their business with a financial support from them.

Dry fish and Red chilli added a different flavor to the market…

It is when I met people like Lalitha and Bijaya Lakshmi that I started wondering about their livelihood in the absence of microfinance. Would they have had help from traditional banks?

Lalitha going back home happily after her day’s sale

Could Lalitha have started a vegetable business without the intervention of Mahashakti; one of Kiva’s      Indian partners with a strong social focus…? Lalitha was selling vegetables in the market. She started selling vegetables with the help of a micro loan to supplement her husband’s income who works as a daily labor in the paddy fields. The additional income has actually helped them move from a mud house to a concrete house. In the photo she holds some drumsticks(moringa) which she saved from her merchandise to cook for her daughter who loves the curry.

As I walked through the stretch of canvas of colors and aromas , I met several other women who were happy to have received a loan and felt empowered through their business.

Me all smiles with Bijayalakshmi spreading her energy around…

Or would Bijayalakshmi and her husband have been able to sustain their livelihood  without financial support in the form of microcredit..? I went to meet her as we were going to post her loan on Kiva. She spends almost 10hrs a day making local snacks and her husband sells them the next day. They are both in their fifties and have no sons to take care of them in their old age as any other parent who has crossed 50s would have been in India. When I asked her about being on internet, she answered with her infectious smile and energy “I am happy to let people know how hard we are working. This may motivate others to work hard and create opportunities for themselves”.  I had nothing to say but be amazed.

But all microfinance clients do not have a success story to share. If it were so, we would not have had those suicides in Andhra Pradesh and MFI industry in India would not be in such a crisis today. So, I thought to myself may be all of microfinance is not good or all of it is not bad. I was reminded of the “half glass” paradox.

Back in my room in the evening I was wondering how MFIs should evolve their model to not let the critics undervalue microfinance by half its potential. It finally dawns on me that MFIs should look for holistic solutions to poverty and provide innovative services by understanding the needs of the customers like any other industry and not just focus on micro credit.

I learnt from my interactions here that more than 40% of a household annual income is spent for health and it plays a major role in repaying the loan. So, health should be one major area of focus for the MFIs. Some of the MFIs in India like one of Kiva’s Indian partners Mahashakti have now started providing health based initiatives like micro insurance, credit support for safe drinking water, water and sanitation loans etc… As one of Mahashakti’s management staff puts it  “Providing basic needs first and then lending builds a stronger bond and trust between the MFIs and the borrowers.” I think this trusted relation is essential for any MFI’s sustained impact and survival in their strive for the creation of economic independence.

These client focused initiatives are implemented only by 5% of all MFIs in India and need to be more wide spread. It is very encouraging to see this shift in the MFI model in India though and hope to see many more moving in this direction.It is good to see Kiva also increase its focus beyond traditional microfinance and work with such partners.

22 August 2012 at 11:19

Empowering Women through… Videography?

Julie Kriegshaber | KF18 | Uganda

There is good reason why past Kiva Fellows at BRAC Uganda have been impressed with BRAC’s Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescents (ELA) program.

I am not going to rehash what has been already been thoroughly covered – instead, I want to highlight a small group within the ELA program that is doing amazing work.

Visiting the “PV girls” of BRAC Uganda’s ELA program!

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14 August 2012 at 08:00 3 comments

Selling stoves in Burkina Faso, a humble field guide

Diana Biggs | KF 18 | Burkina Faso

Last week I was lucky enough to join my Entrepreneurs du Monde (EdM) colleagues on a field mission in the Ioba province of Burkina Faso, a rural area that borders Ghana. There, in the town of Dano, is a small EdM office manned by Benoit Some, who covers EdM’s Burkina Faso social enterprise arm, Nafa Naana, in the area.

The small, roadside office doubles as a storage hub and retail outlet for energy-efficient and gas cookstoves (as described in my last blog post).

EdM's Dano office

Cookstove display outside the EdM branch in Dano.

Here, this March, four rural shopkeepers were given training in the Nafa Naana model — the product offering, environmental protection, stock management, cash management and sales techniques. Then in April, EdM set them up for the sale of the cookstoves, providing them with simple management tools, such as receipts and sales lists, posters and an informational leaflet to show interested customers. The organization also installed grills produced by local iron workers to lock up the cookstoves and organized four promotional events in the area to drum up interest. Then of course there were the actual cookstoves, which are supplied to the shopkeepers with interest-free advances.

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7 August 2012 at 08:00 4 comments

Alighting, Educating and Uplifting – Kiva Zip Trustees in Action

By Patrick Seeton & Muskan Chopra | KF18 | Kenya

Visiting Kiva borrowers is always a special part of a Fellow’s experience.  Fellows are the lucky ones who actually go out and meet the people that Kiva capital helps.  In some cases we even get to meet the borrowers who we’ve lent money to directly – see Luan & Olivia’s terrific blog on True Connectedness!

As we ramp up Kiva Zip and assess our progress, we have had the additional pleasure of meeting the dynamic people and organizations that have been endorsed as trustees.  These folks are from diverse backgrounds – community leaders, teachers, business owners and church leaders.  They have a vested interest in seeing their communities and constituents succeed and by identifying and endorsing “creditworthy” borrowers from their programs and they are critical to the success and scaleability of Kiva Zip.

Recently Muskan Chopra and Patrick Seeton had the exciting task of meeting three of the more far flung trustees in the Zip program – community leader Rowland Amulyoto, businessman and entrepreneur Haron Wachira and conservation farming advocate Finn Davey and his field officer in Nyahururu, Hussein Wendo.

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4 August 2012 at 08:00 1 comment

Explaining Kiva Zip from a Whitewater Raft

By Muskan Chopra KF18 Kenya

I lived the life of a Kiva Zip borrower for a day as I rafted down the Nile in Uganda. It all started last weekend when the brave expats of Nairobi and Kampala decided to meet in Jinja. Jinja is a quaint city in Uganda serving the best Rolex, and is also the place where the Nile originates. With every natural wonder of the world comes some adventure – a full day Grade 5 rafting trip at the Source.

As a first-timer to extreme action sports in the water, I decided to tune in to every emotion – the anticipation of a class 5 rapid, the heightened fear every time a swirl of rough water came in to sight, the alertness to what the guide was saying, the effort with which I rowed when it felt like the water was taking over, and the huge sigh of relief when you realize you came out on the other side with all your body parts intact.

Looking back, I couldn’t help but wonder – what could I relate this experience to? What does this cycle of emotions remind me of? I instantly drew a connection with Kiva Zip – a revolutionary microfinance model testing the possibility of lenders giving loans directly to borrowers at 0% interest, as long as the borrower has a trustee that Kiva has vetted.

Let me explain the correlation from the eyes of a Grade 5 rafter…

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25 July 2012 at 05:00 6 comments

Lessons from building sand castles and from peruvian micro-entrepreneurs

By Icaro Rebolledo| KF18 | Peru

Meet my new friend Piero and our new castle! We randomly met whilst I was running by the beach and he was just hanging out; yet we immediately identified a fundamental issue uniting us on that Saturday morning… WE WERE ON A MISSION TO HAVE FUN! After a failed attempt to find a football, I asked…“Do you know how to build sand castles!?”; his eyes brightened and I interpreted that as a clear sign that he was an expert at it! So, excited he replied…“No! But you must know!?!?”. Well…I really could not remember me having ever lead a group of people or lead myself to build a sand castle!… but the pressure was on and I needed to perform! So, together we created what you can see (above) is a pretty solid sand structure with direct access to the beach!

Who would have thought this experience was going to, not only boost my self-esteem as I discovered a new talent, but also freshen my perception of my adventures in Peru so far.

For the past two weeks, I have been visiting people from mainly rural areas in Northern Peru, who have taken a loan with Kiva (more…)

13 July 2012 at 14:58 5 comments

Ceviche and Pisco Sour

By Eduarda Carmo Vaz | KF18 | Peru

For those of you who have never been in Peru on a 28th of June, you might have missed a very important fact: today is the NATIONAL CEVICHE DAY.

Ceviche, a dish made of fresh raw fish marinated in lemon juice and spices, is without any doubt the most famous Peruvian dish.

So what does a Kiva Fellow in Lima do in such a day? Logically, it goes to a “Ceviche Festival”.

Continue Reading 28 June 2012 at 17:00 7 comments

Peruvians, Hawaians and Italians…Small scale globalization?

By Icaro Rebolledo| KF18 | Peru

Back at university, a friend of mine used to tell me that if I couldn’t cross the road walking (as opposed to running) then I should not cross the road. Personally, I thought he was just being lazy, but he had a point… so I started walking. However, here in Chiclayo (Northern Peru) I would argue that if you don’t run to cross the road, then you really are not 100% sure you’ll make it to the other side… so I have gone back to running, with a 100% success rate so far! ‘Unlearning’ a little has indeed been the goal I have found both most challenging and most important! On the one hand, I have never tried ‘unlearning’ anything in my life! On the other hand, how are we supposed to properly understand the context in which people live, if our reasoning is so influence by our own preconceptions!? I’ve always thought that people themselves know what’s best for them, much better than any person outside their day to day environment, which is where empowerment comes in to play.

Yet, a pizza has made me re-assess this a little!…Yes! The pizza spoke to me!…. or more the guy who made the pizza; a big, friendly (more…)

27 June 2012 at 11:11 7 comments

Kiva’s first full-tuition student loans: Looking at both sides of the coin

Olivia, one of the first full tuition Kiva loan students. http://www.kiva.org/lend/432412

Nessa E. French | KF 17 | Kenya

“Life will change for you now, please make us proud.”

“I hope you will be the president of Kenya someday.

These statements represent the high hopes that everyone at Strathmore University has for the first nine students who received full tuition loans through Kiva to pursue their undergraduate degrees there.  They also represents how extraordinary and truly driven these first students are. Kiva lenders seem to agree on their high potential: the first full tuition loan posted to the site was funded in less than 12 hours.

Strathmore’s loan application and interview process is not easy –for the candidates or for the loan committee. For the upcoming semester, which begins in July, there were only nine full tuition loans available. That means that half of the 18 promising candidates who interviewed did not make the cut. As someone who has only been on the applicant’s side of admissions decisions, or even job applications, it has been difficult — sometimes even heart wrenching — to interview candidates who did not meet some of the criteria and were unable to receive the loan.

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31 May 2012 at 05:13 3 comments

Karibu Kenya: Strathmore Facilitates Connections

Nessa E. French | KF 17 | Kenya

“I won the bet!”  I exclaimed on Friday afternoon as I did a victorious ‘raising of the roof’ dance.  The dance is better left to the imagination than any sort of visual.  The bet in question was one that two other colleagues and I made on how long it would take for Strathmore University’s first partial tuition loan to fund once it went live on Kiva’s website.

Of course, we did not bet on anything material — only glory. One of the Strathmore Kiva Coordinators who lost said, “I lost but it’s good, I’m happy to lose because we all won.” She was right, Strathmore’s Kiva Coordinators had been working on making this a reality for many months now and it finally was. We were all ecstatic. What an exciting way to end my first week of work as a Kiva Fellow, and just another instance where I felt so happy to have been placed with field partner Strathmore University.

It was the last day of my first week of work at Strathmore University, and six partial tuition and laptop loans had just gone live on the site. The loans went live on Kiva.org at around 11:00 a.m. Nairobi time. The first partial tuition loan was funded by 12:40 p.m. My bet had been that the first loan would be funded by 1:00 p.m. My colleagues were a bit more modest in their estimates, going with 1:30p.m. and 2:00 p.m.

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19 February 2012 at 07:48 4 comments

Same Continent, Different Worlds: Part 1

By Kiva Fellows in Africa, KF16
Compiled by Tejal Desai

Where might you find muzungu hunting? Where do Kenya’s elite runners hail from? And what do most borrowers in Burkina Faso use their business profits for? Kiva Fellows from KF16 bring you a unique perspective from the diverse and vast continent of Africa! We patched together an overview of each of our placement countries that includes: basic socioeconomic stats, common stereotypes (and to what extent they are true or false), greatest challenges, most common loan products at our respective field partners, and the borrowers’ most common use of their profits. This first post of a two-part series focuses on Kenya, Tanzania, and Burkina Faso. We hope our summaries give you a new perspective on the continent and its distinct countries that we’ve been fortunate to explore during the Kiva fellowship!

Continue Reading 31 December 2011 at 13:00

Producto Creer: How for a Bank Doing the Right Thing Can Pay Off

By Emmanuel M. von Arx, KF16, Guayaquil (Ecuador)

My host and Kiva´s partner organization Banco D-MIRO provides over ten different types of microloans to borrowers in and around Guayaquil: among them loans to finance housing improvements, school expenses, medication, and loans awarded specifically to employees, young clients with a business idea but no experience, and – as Ecuador´s only microfinance institution – discount loans for HIV-positive micro-entrepreneurs. Yet, one borrower group beats all other borrowers in their dedication and commitment to paying back their loans on time: the well over 400 disabled borrowers of Banco D-MIRO, whose payment discipline has turned “their” loan – “Producto Creer” (“Product Believe”) – into the most successful and inspirational product of D-MIRO´s extensive spectrum. The delinquency rate of Producto Creer is by far lower than that of any other major micro-loan type of Banco D-MIRO, which means that borrowers of Producto Creer are better at paying back their monthly rates than any other client group! In these times of economic and social turmoil, Banco D-MIRO´s Producto Creer may be a much needed reminder that it may pay off for banks to do the morally right thing.

Continue Reading 20 December 2011 at 04:00 1 comment

All Loans Lead to Home; When an Agricultural Loan is also a Housing (or Student) Loan

By Marcus Berkowitz, KF16, Ecuador

“We built a little house” she replied happily, when I asked how she had used the loan. I looked down at my sheet. Oops. This loan, according to its Kiva description, was for corn seeds and fertilizers.

Of course, we have no right to insist on any particular loan use. That’s not the point. But of the first three borrowers with whom I had spoken as part of Kiva’s Borrower Verification process, not a single one had used the loan for the purpose listed on Kiva. And two of three had built houses with their loans. What gives?

Continue Reading 15 December 2011 at 05:38 3 comments

The Wandering Fellow

Eric Rindal – KF16 – La Paz, Bolivia

This Monday morning I woke up under new sheets on a small bed in a small room amid warm and verdant Santa Cruz, Bolivia. It took me 30 frantic and confused seconds to piece together where I was as the sun beamed through the cracks in the unfamiliar blinds. The day before I was living across the country for two weeks verifying loan terms of Kiva borrowers. Three weeks before that I was in La Paz, Bolivia for eight weeks creating new Kiva borrower profile templates. I wander, therefore I am…a Wandering Fellow.

Continue Reading 17 November 2011 at 02:20 2 comments

Team Kiva: World Police?

Lauren Barra, KF16 Kenya/Tanzania

Last month I had the privilege of attending the African Microfinance Pricing Transparency Leadership Forum in Nairobi. Hosted by MicroFinance Transparency, the conference gathered policymakers and regulators to exchange ideas about client protection and pricing disclosure in microfinance. Although their views varied greatly, these policymakers and consumer advocates could all agree on one point. Regulators should not be fully responsible for promoting transparency – donors and investors must also play an active role.

With $255MM disbursed to over 600,000 borrowers, Kiva is one of the largest microfinance donors in the world. So what should Kiva’s role be in promoting a healthy, transparent microfinance industry? In this blog post, I examine two critical questions:

1.) Does Kiva have a responsibility to promote microfinance transparency?
2.) What must Kiva do to meet this responsibility?

Continue Reading 11 November 2011 at 08:02 4 comments

Ica’s Next Top Chef

The challenges of rural and agricultural microfinance are many: the least of which, in the case of Kiva Field Partner Caja Rural Señor de Luren, is living in the middle of the Sechura Desert. But Caja Rural’s clients show the same impregnable determination I witnessed during my first fellowship in Ecuador. Against all odds (and weather patterns), they’re growing their businesses, investing in their lives, and laying the foundation for a thriving future.

This week I had the pleasure of getting to know Kiva borrowers Mirian Dora and María Victoria. Mirian and María have a lot in common- they’re in the same line of work, they support generations of family members, and they represent successful Kiva borrowers in Ica, Peru…

Continue Reading 5 November 2011 at 02:00 2 comments

Earthquake! (and Disaster Mitigation through Microfinance)


Last Friday morning my Fellows Blog post mentioned the devastation of the 2007 Peruvian Earthquake in Ica, Peru and the surrounding areas. At 2 PM local time later that day, another earthquake shook the city.

Kiva Fellow David Connelly, my predecessor here at Kiva Partner Caja Rural Señor de Luren, has written before about the 2007 8.0 magnitude earthquake. The statistics are chilling: 519 people dead, 1366 injured, and some 76,000 homes collapsed. “After two and a half years,” he wrote in 2010, “Ica is still very much recovering.” Last week’s comparatively modest 6.9 magnitude earthquake made it clear as day that the wounds are fresh…

Continue Reading 1 November 2011 at 08:42 5 comments

Mysteries, Geoglyphs + too-good-to-be-true Kiva Borrowers

When I arrived in famous Nazca, Peru last week to complete some borrower visits, my mind was not on the celebrated and mysterious Nazca Lines but on the mystery of Caja Rural Señor de Luren borrower Gaby, who repaid her entire loan a mere month after disbursement.

I was checking in on Gaby’s loan as part of my borrower verification (BV) for Kiva Partner Caja Rural. The borrower verification item on a Kiva Fellow’s workplan always has us feeling anxious. One of the BV’s key objectives is to ensure transparency of loan repayment from Kiva Field Partners and potentially unearth any foul play within the Kiva partnership. Obviously, most of the time this is not the case; Kiva works with accredited and trustworthy microfinance institutions whose missions selflessly aid in the betterment of clients’ lives. But nevertheless, when I see something as rare as full repayment on the first repayment date, I can’t help but wonder…

Continue Reading 28 October 2011 at 04:00 1 comment

Microfinance by Land or by Sea

By Kate Bennett, KF16, Peru

I spent last week at the beach. But from my resiliently pasty skin, you wouldn’t have guessed it. For better or worse, I wasn’t in Camaná, Perú to suntan and lay by the ocean, but in fact to visit borrowers with Kiva Field Partner Caja Rural Señor de Luren….

Continue Reading 27 October 2011 at 06:00 4 comments

Pride & Poverty: A Photo Essay of Kiva Borrowers in Georgia

Ask any Kiva Fellow what the best part of their job is, and invariably you will hear, “Meeting Kiva Borrowers and hearing their stories.” It’s an incredible honor to be invited into borrowers homes and businesses to witness firsthand how a Kiva loan has helped to change and improve their lives. Spend a little time getting to know a borrower and you’ll be struck by two things- first, how amazingly hard they work and second, how proud they are to share the progress or product a Kiva loan has helped them to develop.

Continue Reading 26 October 2011 at 05:54 13 comments

Wrap your arms around me

By Marcus Berkowitz, KF16, Ecuador

Imagine yourself stepping outside of your tomato-colored house and onto a peaceful street, steeply hung over a mid-sized Ecuadorian town nestled in a lush valley. It’s nearly silent as you walk to the bus stop. You can see the center of town bustling below you. The giant Mt. Chimborazo in the distance and the smaller range just in front of it block the harshness of the early morning sun, casting a soft light on the quiet countryside.

This peace lasts no more than a couple of minutes before it is loudly shattered by the shouting of the fare official of the bright red bus screaming towards you with no intention to stop, loudly blaring from its many loudspeakers the same song as yesterday (indeed, as every day). So it begins!

Continue Reading 12 October 2011 at 08:12 3 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

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