Posts tagged ‘agriculture loans’
Spring may have arrived in Mongolia, but for two Kiva staff who visited me in April, winter gave one last hurrah and dumped the largest snowfall I’ve seen since being here (a whopping 2 inches!).
Spring has arrived in Mongolia! That means warmer weather (afternoons creeping closer and closer to the double digits)… and, of course, baby animals!
Julie Kriegshaber | KF 18 | Uganda
On my seemingly endless journey from NYC to Kampala, Uganda, I barely slept at all.
Free movies on the plane, my recently updated Spotify playlists, even SkyMall – none of it appealed to me. Why? I was so engrossed in my book, Freedom From Want, that tells the story of BRAC and how it evolved from a small, temporary solution to a devastating cyclone that hit Bangladesh in 1970 to today being the largest development organization in the world by many counts.
We all are familiar with Bangladesh’s other major development export, the Grameen Bank, but what shocked me is how relatively unknown BRAC is outside of development circles in the west.
This year marks BRAC’s 40th anniversary -after growing for 30 years in Bangladesh, BRAC in the past 10 years has expanded to 10 other countries, including Uganda, where it is (no surprise here!) the largest NGO in the country. With operations reaching 2.8 million Ugandans, BRAC Uganda is a true all-in-one development organization with specialized programs from education to health to empowering young women to improving small businesses through microloans.
From what I have seen as a Fellow at BRAC Uganda, I think there are 3 distinct features in many of their programs that make BRAC as an organization so successful. In light of Kiva’s monthly theme “A Global Feast”, I am going to highlight these features in regard to BRAC Uganda’s agricultural development programme. (This is also convenient for me since I am preparing to roll out BRAC Uganda’s agricultural loans on Kiva!)
Philip Issa | KF17 | Palestine
(Update: Photo links fixed)
Now that Spring time is in full bloom here in Palestine, the truths about a pair misconceptions I held before arriving have become unavoidable. First, that the ecology here is actually quite conducive to agriculture, and second, that most of the West Bank is in fact not under the jurisdiction of Palestinians.
I had originally intended to write only about my surprise about how green the land can be in Spring, but I believe that such a post would be dishonest. It would be misleading on a microfinance blog to show images of agricultural land and let readers think that they could lend to farmers to help them improve their lot. Such loans are common and fruitful in other Kiva countries, but, as I will explain below, they are much less likely to be effective here.
By Marcus Berkowitz, KF16, Ecuador
Farmers are tough cookies. As it turns out, they’re even tougher to finance effectively. Those who work in agriculture are faced with a unique set of conditions that make most traditional microfinance methods unfeasible for them. This post examines some of the reasons why farmers stand apart from other borrowers, and explores the clever efforts of an Ecuadorian Kiva partner to craft a loan product that is appropriate to their needs.
Agriculture loans are considerably different products than most micro loans. Agriculture loans include unique risks and potentially higher costs of servicing. In this article, Adam Cohn explains those differences, and how Kiva and Kiva lenders like you can help out poor farmers in Rwanda.
By Anne Conlin, KF15 Indonesia
When I told my family, friends, and prior employer that I would be spending my Kiva Fellowship in Bali, I got a lot of rolling eyes, good-natured ribbing, and questions about my surfing ability. Fair enough. Instead of working on my tan, I am working in Jembrana, Bali’s poorest and most sparsely populated kabupaten (regency), which is situated on the northwest corner of the island and five hours from the nearest tourist. Both nightclubs and surf shops – not to mention grocery stores, rentable housing, and taxis – are nowhere to be found.
Though 93% of Balinese practice Hinduism, my village, Blimbingsari, happens to be the one Protestant village in Bali (the other Christian village in Bali is the neighboring Catholic village of Palasari). Blimbingsari was founded in 1939 when Dutch colonists, worried that ardent Christian converts were creating tensions with Balinese Hindus, banished the island’s Christians to the uninhabited west of the island. In Blimbingsari, the gereja (church) is the physical and soul center of town: on a typical Sunday, 500 of the village’s 600 residents turn out for mass. Though Blimbingsari was formed by a group in exile, the residents – the children and grandchildren of village founders – remain proudly Balinese. Traditional Balinese garb is go-to attire for mass, and the church is built in the distinctive ornate style generally attributed to Balinese Hindu temples, the giant cross on top one notable exception.
The Blimbingsari-based MFI Mitra Usaha Kecil (MUK) is my host organization, and we open each day with hymns, bible study, and prayers for the success of MUK clients, programs, and partners (including Kiva!). Though a Christian organization, MUK has clients of all faiths, which reflects a “live and let live” attitude towards religion common among Indonesians, but which might run counter to many Americans’ opinions of Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation.
MUK was founded as a cooperative in 2008 and its member-borrowers receive 20% of profits as dividends at year-end. Without cliché, MUK operates like a family; the cooperative’s first board was made entirely of employees, most of who were raised in Blimbingsari and remain residents today. Because of cautious growth, small scale, and high social cohesion in the community, MUK exists in a rarified space among MFIs in that they have, to date, never collected collateral (some individual loans are collateralized, group loans are not). The cooperative structure has limited imperatives for growth and MUK operates without commercial funding.
Though Jembrana is remote, “access to finance” could hardly be termed “poor”. The explosion of retail banking and consumer credit that has resulted from Indonesia’s strong half decade of economic growth has brought national banks as well as several MFIs, cooperatives, and a government bank to the Jembrana area. These banks offer group and individual loans, but government loans involve endless bureaucratic hurdles, while some of the cooperatives collect 73% (APR, before fees) interest, and many require collateral. MUK offers both group and individual loans at comparatively low interest rates, but MUK’s true differentiation and value to the community is in specialized livestock loan products.
MUK’s most unique product is the Kelompok Babi or Pig Breeder Group. Across Bali, men support their families through farming, manual labor, small businesses, and other trades. In addition to participating in many of these productive activities alongside their husbands, many Balinese women supplement family income – under $1.25 PCI/day for many Jembrana families – by informally raising one or two pigs in their yard for sale to the local butcher. (Babi guling, or suckling pig, is a Balinese delicacy.) MUK identified that, with capital, these women could scale up their pig breeding activities and earn more money for their families.
MUK’s Pig Breeder Group Loan Program forms groups of ten female neighbors, each of whom gets 1M IDR ($117 USD), lent at 18% interest (APR, ~34% after fees). Typically, women buy two piglets for around $60, and spend the rest of the money on pig food. They sell the pigs five months later to a butcher for around $190, yielding an excellent return and substantial increase in familial income over farming or running a kiosk. Unlike most microloans, which rely on a high-touch repayment schedule with group meetings every week, Pig Breeder clients have one repayment at the end of the six month term, only after they have sold their pigs. Most group members say they will use increased income to improve their houses, pay school fees, and buy motorbikes to use in their families’ businesses. Earnings, plus their next loan, also go towards buying more pigs. The hope is that after several loan cycles, women will be raising four or five pigs.
Given the return, why wouldn’t more banks and cooperatives in the area cater to this common productive activity? The amazingly low default rates seen in microfinance are often attributed, at least in part, to the high-touch microfinance practice of weekly repayment meetings. This repayment schedule clearly does not mesh with a livestock breeding cycle, in which clients make an upfront investment in the animals, but do not see returns for several months. Well, though no small business is a sure thing, livestock are especially risky because the asset can die, almost certainly resulting in default. Microfinance institutions are justifiably uneasy with lack of diversification in local rural economies, and subsequent lack of diversification in their portfolio, particularly when a large fraction of borrowers might be subject to covariant risks like drought or flood. Microfinance institutions generally look for years of experience in a given business as a mark of credit-worthiness, so MUK’s clients could be seen as a risky proposition because they have not formally raised pigs before. Though livestock and crop insurance – a topic beginning to garner interest in the microfinance community – is not feasible for MUK, they have come up with some innovative services to ensure the continued health of the groups’ pigs and – by extension – MUK’s loans.
First, though MUK’s Pig Breeder clients do not repay until the end of the loan, check-ins do ensure funds are not diverted: field officers visit clients one month after disbursement to ensure they have bought pigs, and one month before repayment, to ensure that pigs are healthy. In addition, there are monthly meetings at which members discuss progress and add small amounts of $1-2 to voluntary savings accounts. Though all MUK clients receive training on household budgeting, training women in more professional pig raising methods is the primary goal of Pig Breeder Group wrap-around services and the way MUK ensures clients will be successful. Before joining the program (and usually through her first loan cycle) a woman might allow her pig free roam of the yard and feed it banana-tree-stalk pulp. Conversely, in her second or third loan, the woman might build a metal or bamboo cage for her pig and feed it more modern animal feed. If the former sounds like a recipe for organic, premium priced, free-range pork, think again. Un-caged, the pigs can wander around, eat garbage, and become sick; moreover, their banana tree diet is low in nutrients and will limit the size of the pigs. Pigs are less likely to live to sale, and also less profitable when sold using this more primitive methodology.
Therefore, to foster a change in method, MUK’s staff veterinarian visits villages and gathers borrowing groups together for training. Rapid change in generations old practices is not the goal; the aim is gradual behavioral modification over the course of multiple loan cycles. As an additional “insurance policy”, if a pig gets sick, the vet makes house (or sty) calls with vitamins and medicine. No client in the program has ever lost a pig.
MUK’s Kelompok Babi program is an example of the power of microfinance to not only deliver loans to the underserved, but to also meet clients where they are with pragmatically designed products. This program – and, I am sure, innovative programs at many Kiva partners – delivers a product that is highly tailored to the productive activities of the community, and supports clients, loan cycle after loan cycle, in their success.
In addition to a second loan, successful group members are eligible for participation in MUK’s pilot BioGas program – BIRU – which will be the subject of a future post.
For more information, please visit Microfinance Gateway’s Rural and Agricultural Finance library.
By Caree Edson, KF 14, Armenia
There were incredible stories of resiliency on the Kiva website that moved me to sacrifice my stable income, access to hot water and balanced nutrition, not to mention consistent contact with my friends and family back home for a few short months in pursuit of furthering my knowledge in the field of microfinance. In short, the reason I became a Kiva Fellow was to fulfill Kiva’s mission of “connecting people through lending to alleviate poverty”. I could think of nothing I’d rather be doing with my days than meeting farmers and small business owners on the other side of the world and sharing their stories with all of you. I informed a few borrowers last week that I journeyed all the way from the US to meet them and hear their stories, and I meant every word.
by Sam Kendall KF 12 Tajikistan
As this is food month on Kiva, I’ve decided to talk about how food relates to you, microfinance, and an entire countries economy. And as an added bonus, I give you a recipe based on fresh fruits and vegetables I’ve found in the market “Tajik Summer on Rice”
What’s that? The price of the new iPhone 4? Starbucks profits (in millions) in 2009? The investment (in millions) Microsoft made in FB 3 years ago?
Find out here…
By Suzy Price Marinkovich, KF9 Bolivia
“In a world that is hot—a world that is more and more affected by global warming—guess who is going to suffer the most? It will be the people who caused it the least—the poorest people in the world, who have no electricity, no cars, no power plants, and virtually no factories to emit CO2 into the atmosphere. Many of the 2.4 billion people who live on $2 a day or less reside in rural areas and depend directly on the soil, forests, and plants in their immediate vicinity for subsistence.” –Thomas Friedman, “Hot, Flat, & Crowded” (Pg. 158)
What I have learned the most since I arrived in South America as a Kiva Fellow seven months ago is that, not only is climate change real – it is making the poor poorer faster than we can create infrastructure to accommodate it. Bolivia has been devastated by heightened temperatures melting glaciers around La Paz, for example, which have in turn dried up rivers that irrigated entire mountainous communities who are now going from poor to extremely poor—and dangerously fast. In Cochabamba, the drying up of rivers can not only be felt but it can be seen nearly everywhere, in old riverbeds now littered with trucks filling up with gravel. Even worse, these trucks are loading up gravel in the middle of “la epoca de lluvia,” or the rainy season, which now feels very much a misnomer for Cochabambinos.
Kiva’s newest partner in Bolivia, CIDRE, is by far most proud of its potable water and irrigation projects – and once you hear what they are up to, you will understand why.
CIDRE approaches agricultural communities with recently dried-up river beds or nonexistent irrigation systems and arranges a community-style loan at very low interest. I say “community” and not “group” loan because the loan is taken out for one purpose, to build a well, and then is repaid by each household as part of the larger sum. I had the opportunity to attend the 6-year anniversary party of a CIDRE-funded community well in the rural area and was astonished at the overwhelming pride the community had for the well. CIDRE’s veteran loan officer Juan and I were treated like the guests of honor; we were even asked to bless the well, give speeches, and shake hands with every single member of the community. It was extraordinarily humbling. I particularly loved Juan’s speech, as he introduced me by explaining Kiva to the community, and telling them how it will help CIDRE bring more wells to dry Cochabamba farming communities. Seeing the joy in their faces at the potential impact this could have for their neighbors was my absolute proudest moment as a Kiva Fellow and it brought tears to my eyes.
Rigoberto, the president of the community’s agricultural cooperative, took me on a tour to tell me why exactly they were so proud about this well. (more…)