Posts tagged ‘environment’

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…


9 October 2012 at 08:00

Now you’re cooking with gas…

Diana Biggs | KF 18 | Burkina Faso

As mentioned in my previous posts, the Field Partner I’m working with, Entrepreneurs du Monde (EdM), is not a microfinance institution in itself – however, the use of microfinance is key to its mission, as it allows EdM to distribute their socially focused projects in a way that can become financially sustainable.

The focus of Kiva’s partnership is EdM’s cookstove project, newly named “Nafa Naana” which can be understood both in Moré and Dioula – the two local languages most spoken in Burkina Faso – roughly translating to “the benefit has come,” “that which you easily win” or “the facility is there.” (Read about it on EdM’s West Africa Blog – and , if you’re really keen, starting picking up some Moré!).  Nafa Naana’s mission is to make environmentally-friendly energy products – such as gas and energy efficient stoves – available in Burkina Faso, even to the poorest and most remote households.

Projet Nafa Naana

Nafa Naana team with the improved cookstoves


20 July 2012 at 08:09 6 comments

“Sustainable” Tourism in the Quirimbas Archipelago: Sustainable for Whom, Exactly?

Micaela Browning | KF17 | Mozambique

The Quirimbas Archipelago in Northern Mozambique is a paradisiacal chain of 24 verdant islets blessed with the tropical vacationer’s holy trinity: ivory sands, ubiquitous royal palms, and resplendent turquoise waters . Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to have the privilege of visiting Quirimbas, which – I figured – would be a pleasant respite from the toils of city life.

From what I was able to gauge from my guidebooks and conversations with previous visitors, the economic landscape of the Quirimbas is rapidly evolving. Prior to 2006, the islands were largely neglected. There was no electricity, scant provision of other public goods, zero transportation, and little commercial activity beyond small-scale fishing and agriculture. Now that the archipelago has been “discovered” by the “sustainable” tourism industry, foreigners are buying up property, streets buzz underneath the newly installed power lines, and charter airlines and boats are travelling several times daily to the main island.

Continue Reading 30 March 2012 at 02:00 16 comments

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

Compiled by Alexis Ditkowsky

Kiva Fellows observed Earth Day by sharing projects initiated by their partner microfinance institutions and host countries and by celebrating’s first batch of “Green Loans”. The upbeat mood also extended to anniversary parties at MFIs in Jordan and Armenia, enthusiastic endorsements to travel to Colombia, and reporting on a great opportunity for Kiva clients in Mongolia. Fellows also visited with borrowers in the Philippines, South Africa, and Armenia, and took us on a typical commute in Mexico City. All in all, a very busy week as members of KF14 wind down their time in the field.

Continue Reading 25 April 2011 at 02:45 4 comments

Happy Earth Day from Kiva Fellows around the Globe!

Compiled by Caree Edson, KF 14, Armenia

One of the unfortunate sight-seeing adventures that you never sign up for when you travel (especially in developing countries) is the unseemly amount of trash cluttering the otherwise beautiful landscapes. In Armenia, it isn’t possible to see the horizon through the smog most days and the streets are covered in cigarette butts and litter. I found no exceptions to this as I inquired from other Kiva Fellows about the dire situation in their countries. Environmental education and reform are simply not a top priority in many countries. But the future of climate change initiatives are not entirely hopeless…

Continue Reading 22 April 2011 at 11:06 3 comments

Why Lend to a Charcoal Seller?

That’s a question I’d never considered before serving as a Kiva Fellow. I figured that charcoal is a dirty and unsustainable source of fuel, and not one that I want to support. Charcoal production causes massive deforestation and produces considerable emissions of carbon dioxide. So when presented with the option of lending to a charcoal seller on Kiva’s website, I always selected an entrepreneur in a different sector to support.

Flash forward a few months – I have now enjoyed hundreds of meals cooked on charcoal stoves and grills, first in Rwanda and now in Tanzania. I’ve also met about a dozen Kiva clients who make their living producing and selling charcoal. These experiences haven’t made me a full advocate for continued use of charcoal fuel. They have, however, made me realize that the issues surrounding sustainable energy are not white and black, but closer to charcoal grey. So here’s why I would now consider lending to a charcoal seller and supporting them through Kiva…

Continue Reading 23 June 2010 at 01:44 11 comments

Transportation, Microfinance and the Environment

Transportation has been an integral part of my travels in South America. I have been in cars, vans, buses, scooters, motorcycles, trains, boats, planes, even a bus transported by a boat and of course I have walked.

Continue Reading 23 April 2010 at 11:35

Power to the People

By Abby Gray, KF6 Togo and KF7 Senegal

How a Kiva Fellow Alumna’s non-profit organization, SunPower Afrique, is shedding light on MFIs in West Africa

“Beep,” complained my laptop, unhappy about its sudden switch to battery power.  The fan above me whirred gently to a stop, no longer drying the beads of sweat incessantly forming on my forehead.  “Page can not be displayed,” grumbled Firefox.  My internet connection was gone, along with any hope I had of uploading my stack of borrower profiles to the Kiva website.

I walked out into the hallway and found the employees of my Senegalese microfinance institution slowly leaking out of their offices as well.  We pulled up chairs in a circle, sat down, and prepared to sweatily twiddle our thumbs until the power gods had mercy on us, whether in ten minutes or ten hours.

An employee at FECECAV, a Togolese MFI, tracking loan repayments by hand. Many of FECECAV's branches operate without electicity.

An employee at FECECAV, a Togolese MFI, tracking loan repayments by hand. Many of FECECAV's branches operate without electicity.

Power cuts are a regular occurrence in West Africa, as in most parts of the developing world. Production and distribution of electricity are unable to meet demand, causing frequent rolling blackouts and interrupted service.  For MFIs (and many other businesses), this means countless manpower hours lost, high overhead costs, low employee morale, a short shelf-life for office equipment and other low efficiencies in daily operations.  These consequences are even more debilitating for MFIs who work with Kiva – the Kiva partnership depends on technology and internet connectivity to successfully fund loans for enterprising clients.  Gasoline-powered generators, the obvious alternative, represent a significant up-front investment and are extremely costly to run and maintain.

So, what can be done to provide MFIs with a reliable source of power??

Enter Kira Costanza, the courageous Kiva Fellow Alumna, galloping in on her trusty steed named Solar Power!


19 August 2009 at 15:08 4 comments

A Road Is Paved, A Mall Opens

By Sloane Berrent, KF8, Ahon sa Hirap, Inc, Philippines

A Center Meeting in San Jose, Antique, Philippines.

A Center Meeting in San Jose, Antique, Philippines.

“How has Ahon sa Hirap, Inc.” (ASHI and my host microfinance institution) “being here in your barangay or in your town helped your community?” I ask the women from ASHI during each Center meeting that I attend. There are a few variations on this question. I ask how their lives have changed and what the Center means to them.

“My husband had a stroke and couldn’t work anymore. I worked as a domestic in town and had to travel very far every day for not a lot of money. I joined ASHI 7 years ago to start a buy and sell fish business so that I could stay closer to home to take care of my husband and help my children.”

“After my husband died, I was so lonely. My children are all grown up and out of the house. I was sad. I joined ASHI 13 years ago and now my life is so different. I laugh. I come here every week to see my friends.”

“My house was very bad and made from old bamboo. When typhoon season came, my family had to run to our neighbors because we were scared our house would collapse. With my ASHI loan, I was able to move my Sari Sari store to a busier corner where workers pass by on their way to the fields. I open at 4AM and close at 8PM but am very happy. Now 10 years later, we now have a house made of stone and we don’t run from the typhoons anymore.”

But has it changed MORE than that? What about an entire town?

I had heard that seeing microfinance in action could be like watching grass grow. So gradual, so slow. How could I say that there is indeed a larger change in the landscape of where microfinance sets up shop?

I turned to the ASHI staff. It was a Saturday night and we were going to go out to dinner together. The two Kiva Coordinators asked me if we could stop in the new local mall that opened so that could grab a few things.

“Sure,” I said. No problem.

We walked to the end of the drive and hopped into a tricycle and took off towards the mall. There was light traffic, the road wasn’t too bumpy, we arrived to throngs of people gathering outside the mall, in the entrance, more teenagers and families gathered.

“This has been huge for our town,” the one Kiva Coordinator said.

10 August 2009 at 02:45 13 comments

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