Posts tagged ‘kiva microloans’
By Eileen Flannigan | KF19 | India
Eileen and Irene are both fellows in India. Eileen is living in Imphal, Manipur and Irene is in Bhubaneswar, Odisha. While in conversations with one another, we have been struck by how different the cities are. We’ve compiled these observations to share with you our experiences of the rich and diverse culture of India. Eileen’s profiled in Part 2 below, while Irene is featured in Part 1.
Top 3 things that you notice while roaming your neighborhood?
To some degree, Imphal looks like most Indian cities; colorful clothes laid out on riverbeds, vibrant vegetable vendors, cows grazing in busy streets, sidewalk barbers and active “hotels” (i.e. shops) of meat, rice, and tea. However, on closer investigation, my curiosity led me to these:
- Rickshaw drivers in disguise. I was perplexed why most of the rickshaw drivers were covered from head-to-toe with only eyes showing, even on very hot days. I learned that these educated young men were forced to take this job because of the high unemployment in this region. It’s considered an act of shame for themselves and their families if their identity was known.
- Men with large guns. Sadly, this has been a hotbed for militancy for decades. At any given moment, I’ll see men in combat uniforms jammed into the back of a vehicle or a crew taking a break at a paan shop or a tank slowly cruising down the street with the watchman’s bust out the top.
- Kids in uniform. I live right across the street from a primary school and my favorite morning ritual is to watch them all gather with the last bit of wild exuberance before the subdued day ahead. Children arrive scrunched with siblings on bikes, rickshaws, or father’s shoulders. Sisters eagerly tie younger one’s bows, friends connected by sweet hand holding and boys arm and arm while imitating their favorite cricket bowler.
When you want the “comforts of home” experience, what do you do?
I live with a family that has two young boys, so I’ve taught them some American card games like Go Fish, Slap Jack and Crazy Eights. On chilly nights we obsessively play with gusto, which always makes me happily nostalgic.
Although, when I’m really longing for home, I head to the best hotel in town to have a cappuccino and baked yogurt, which is a newly delicious discovery that is a cross between a crème brûlée, and American style yogurt. Although I appreciate the ritual and social nuances of chai time, there’s nothing like the comforts of a cup of coffee or two, to turn my day around. Added bonus is this cafe plays the most wonderfully bad acoustic remakes of American songs. Depending on my mood, I am either really happy or deeply embarrassed that I now know all the lyrics to Rhinestone Cowboy.
Describe the people and culture in your region.
Manipur is one of the most northeastern states of India, snugly positioned next to Myanmar, formally known as Burma. Almost all states in the northeast have international borders with countries that include Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and China which has meant a continuous migration of people with strong ethnic identities. The amalgamation of different tribal nations, indigenous traditions, languages and food has left a dynamic imprint on the Manipuri culture. They have a rich arts heritage, however my favorite pastime is the daily theatre of weaved garments whisking by in the streets, with just the right amount of dramatic flair. Most women don’t wear saris but a long wrap-around skirt that tell a story of the woman, her home tribe and religious lineage through the intricate patterned design, electrified colors and weave techniques.
I love Indian food and its explosion of spices to awaken an exotic, far-away feeling in me. However, one of my biggest surprises has been with my culinary experiences. It’s not your typical Indian fare of masala, cardamom, coriander and the like, with the exclusion of turmeric, spices are used minimally here, if at all. Manipuris smother everything with the king chili (the hottest in the world) and say that “rice is always the main course” with something fermented (fish or bamboo) and possibly dried meat as a side. Thankfully, my host family has been understanding of my western palette and doesn’t try to push the king chili on me, as I think we both know it would end badly.
What type of work is common in this region for Kiva borrowers?
I’ve been awed by the way Kiva borrowers work many different, inter-connected businesses to sustain their livelihoods. There is no main industry to speak of, so the women must find creative ways to bring in little bits of income from many different sources, mostly 4, 5 or even 6 businesses operating at once. The Kiva borrowers, all women, live in remote hill areas with fertile land and weaving skills that start at a very young age and are seeded in deep traditions. They are using these strengths to form business of:
Weaving + Rice Paddy + Garden
All village women will be involved in these three activities. Weaving is done twice daily, at dawn and late night when all the other household chores are completed. Rice harvesting is only once a year and the yield is not only expected to feed the whole family throughout the year but provide a small supplemental income. A majority of families, regardless of income level, have a paddy field that has been pasted down through the generations. In addition, village families will have anything from a kitchen garden to a full farm. In this region, they typically grow potatoes, gooseberries, ginger, turmeric, cabbage, chillies and will use the harvest for family consumption and market sales.
Piggery + Poultry
“Piggeries”, as pig farms are known here, can reap a good profit, especially around festival time when the demand is high. Ladies will spend about 8-9 months feeding their pigs from scraps from their garden and rice paddies. In most cases, a woman who is raising pigs will be raising chickens,too. This is because chickens, like pigs, are a home based business and can be sold within 4-6 weeks, allowing the Kiva borrower profit to live and pay back the loan while waiting for the income from the piggery.
Clothing +Tea + Paan+ Variety Stores
The resale of used clothing has provided a good living for Kiva borrowers here because of the high profit margins with less time and hard labor then other activities. In addition, tea stalls, paan shops and variety shops are heavily littered throughout India, but in rural areas they are still viable means to respond to village needs.
What are the main strengths of your MFI and how have you experienced these in the field?
Kiva’s partner, WSDS-Initiate, has many strengths that contribute to successfully penetrating the remote regions in the northeast. Manipur has several challenges and complexities that make it difficult for financial institutions to operate. Which of course, compound the effects of social, political, and geographic circumstances by widening the disparities in rural populations by financial exclusion. WSDS- Initiate, has a long history of working in this area, not only in a financial role but a social services capacity and understands the ethnic conflicts and nuances needed to work with many different tribal communities. They operate with an inclusive approach that tribal harmony and peace-building is pivotal to the regions long-term growth. Therefore, they work with the three major tribes (Kuki, Naga & Meitei) in remote and sometimes dangerous regions with a needs-based approach to financial inclusion. This includes, not only providing loans, but financial training and savings education. I’ve personally met hundreds of WSDS clients, in several villages and have witnessed how they work to financially include and educate all women, even those that are considered “too high risk”, such as widows, women over 55 years old and those with little collateral.
In addition, I’ve been particularly inspired by how they continue to strive to make a social impact in this region, which isn’t easy. They have partnered with organizations that are using innovative ways of enhancing their client’s livelihood activities by enabling them to get better access to solar power, education, agriculture and forestry projects that benefit the whole community. It’s clear that WSDS’s investment in these villages are holistic with the overarching driving principle of poverty alleviation.
Eileen Flannigan is a Kiva fellow (19th class) serving in Manipur, India with the micro finance organization, WSDS Initiate. Support our Indian partners here, join the Indian lending team, WSDS lending team or get a holiday gift card for someone special!
Eileen and Irene are both fellows in India. Eileen is living in Imphal, Manipur and Irene is in Bhubaneswar, Odisha. While in conversations with one another, we have been struck by how different the cities are. We’ve compiled these observations to share with you our experiences of the rich and diverse culture of India. In Part I, we start with Irene in Odisha and continue with Eileen in Part 2.
Top 3 things that you always notice while roaming your neighborhood…
Olivia Hanrahan-Soar | KF18 | Johannesburg, South Africa
In January of this year, a fatal stampede occurred at the University of Johannesburg while students and parents waited at the University’s gates, anxious to secure one of several hundred last-chance places. The stampede left one dead and several injured, and is a tragedy emblematic of the societal difficulties engendered by lack of access to education in South Africa. Last year, About 85,000 students had applied for the roughly 11,000 seats available at the University of Johannesburg; 20,000 more than the previous year. While access to education is tough to come by, there are organisations in South Africa working to meet the demand for education shown by the country’s youth, and students determined to succeed in getting their education.
By Muskan Chopra | KF18 | Kenya
Sitting in the Virgin Atlantic flight to London after 10 weeks in the field, I knew of one thing with absolute certainty – Kenya will rightfully own a piece of me forever.
Never have I found myself in a new country, expecting it to change me. But Kenya surpassed all unreasonable expectations. Seeing such diversity of nature, living in local communities, soaking in the culture, meeting small people with big dreams… I transformed myself.
Obviously, as a Kiva Fellow, I’m always excited to hear about how our field partners offer savings to their clients. While I was unaware of the agenda of this last weekend’s UGAFODE-wide training, I was pleasantly surprised to be a part of personal Savings Account utilization and client mobilization! The whole weekend was not only necessary but also fun and interesting. While the first day focused on team building with trust games and group coordination exercises, the second day was designated to Savings Account mobilization.
This savings aspect of UGAFODE has only recently been a possibility and after much hard work and restructuring of the organization. This field partner only became a Micro Deposit Taking Institution (MDI) on September 23, 2011, but they are moving quickly to utilize this capacity in the products they offer to their clients.
Now, back to the training we received on Savings Mobilization. I was impressed that the first half of the training was dedicated to training all ~135 employees in personal savings practices and recommendations. The reason being, “How can you tell a client to save when you yourself don’t know how?” Although, some of the tips were quite basic they were good reminders of how and why we save.
Next, we split into groups to discuss the different forms of savings that clients utilize and why they do this. I knew that micro business clients use often unorthodox forms of savings, but this really opened my eyes to other barriers that institutions have to encourage and educate people toward savings. Although, saving in a bank is not always the best option, many times it is a far better option then the alternative. In Uganda, with an economic history of bank closures and untrustworthy institutions, many people are hesitant to trust their money with an organization. One of the facilitators shared a story that he had a group of woman that he was helping open savings accounts for. When he filled out the paper work and took their cumulatively substantial amount of $6,000 he brought back passbooks (small ledgers recording account activity) that were worth $0.25. The women were confused and angry that they gave him all that money and they only got a cheap book to replace it.
I have learned that this is the kind of context that many of the rural branches of UGAFODE deal with on a daily basis. When improving the financial literacy of low-income clients it is not telling them that saving is a good habit, but rather how will they directly benefit from savings. The credit officers’ job is to not only to disburse loans and savings accounts, but to educate clients on the benefits of savings. What they call customer sensitization was heavily emphasized in training, to not only explain the benefits, but also the step-by-step deposit and withdrawal terms of any given account.
I was somewhat unaware of the marketing aspect of savings accounts, but now totally understand that savings accounts not only benefit the borrower with safe and secure savings but also with interest. And while this is a great social mission for UGAFODE, it makes sense for them to increase their clients’ savings portfolio, so that they have access to this cheaper form of capital that they can then lend to other borrowers.
I love these win-win situations for all parties involved! Now, I’m currently compiling a report to propose to UGAFODE to give back to their Kiva borrowers by opening a fixed deposit savings account for 3-6 months that would be given to Kiva clients who make all their repayments on time. Therefore, only clients with good repayment histories would receive a reward by a portion of the interest charged by UGAFODE deposited into this account at the loan-end date. The fixed term of 3-6 months would inherently teach clients the benefits of savings and hopefully encourage continued utilization.
Please share with me any ideas or recommendations for this!
Jon is a second-term Kiva fellow volunteering in Kampala, Uganda with UGAFODE. From the desolate plains of Mongolia to the lush jungle and mountains of Uganda, Jon has been experiencing much of the amazing world of Micofinance. If you like what he has said about UGAFODE, make a loan to any of their clients here.
Luan Nio and Olivia Hanrahan-Soar | KF18 | Nicaragua and Zambia
Kiva works hard to facilitate a connection between lenders and borrowers, through photographs, video interviews, and email updates from the borrowers themselves. Nothing compares, though, to the experience of being able to meet that borrower in person and see how your funds and the funds of others have had a tangible impact on his or her life.
Two Kiva fellows recently got the extraordinary opportunity to visit a borrower they had personally lent money to.
Luan from Rotterdam, The Netherlands <-> Alejandro Jose from El Sauce, Nicaragua
By Olivia Hanrahan-Soar | KF18 | Zambia and South Africa
Right now, I’m in the middle of a Zambian road trip. I’m working with one of Kiva’s newest non-traditional partners, Mobile Transactions Zambia (MTZ): a business which provides funds to entrepreneurs who want to own mobile money kiosks all over Zambia. This is Kiva’s first foray into mobile money, and it’s proving to be extremely valuable for the borrowers as well as their communities. Msanide, for instance, wants to become an MTZ agent: instead of transporting cold, hard cash, people will be able to use Msanide’s shop to send money quickly, safely and cheaply all over the country.
Check out Mundia and Muyoyeta for more : I’ve visited both of them this week, via a small odyssey involving a two-day drive through a nature reserve, home to the Zambian cheetah, and a mosquito-infested swamp crossing. These guys are great examples of how mobile money technology is connecting rural communities to the rest of the economy: like M-PESA in Kenya, MTZ has the potential to be a real catalyst for change in Zambia. (more…)
By Kimberly Strathearn, KF 16/17, Turkey
Volunteers aren’t paid, not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.” Anonymous
National Volunteer Week 2012 (April 15-21) has come and gone and despite my best intentions to post this blog during that week–it didn’t happen. But that does not mean I appreciate our SUPER Maya volunteers any less, in fact, I am going to use this blog as the perfect chance to brag about some of the individuals and schools that volunteer for Maya. Some translate Maya Entrepreneur Profiles and Journal Updates from Turkish to English while others help out with more technical translations or other projects.
When I first started my Fellowship back in September 2011 with KF 16, I immediately recognized that since Maya is such a small program, the Kiva Coordinator is out in the field 3-4 days a week, and none of the loan officers speak English, we were going to need some help getting the profiles and journal updates translated.
Through some groups I belong to here in Istanbul, I sent out some notices seeking volunteers. I was blown away by the response but shouldn’t have been because I know that volunteer opportunities can be hard to find and a logistical nightmare (traffic and Istanbul is a large city).
So without further delay, let’s see who are some of the volunteers that are vital to helping Maya and what they do:
By Kimberly Strathearn, KF 16/17, Turkey
April 7 -29, 2012 is this year’s date for the 7th International Istanbul Tulip Festival which is organized by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. Being a national symbol of Turkey, tulips have had a major role in Turkish arts and culture for centuries. Not to mention it is the current official tourism symbol.
The Tulip Festival is held each April and the city parks, squares, and gardens are blooming with millions of tulips of every color. This year over 11.5 million tulips of 104 different varieties have been planted throughout Istanbul. Various parks and squares will host live concerts, painting and Ebru (marble-painting) demonstrations, Tulip Photography Exhibitions and Tulip Sculpture Exhibitions.
By Kimberly Strathearn, KF 16/17, Turkey
Maya has been a Kiva Field partner for 8 months. Maya is a small program that was established under the Foundation for the Support of Women’s Work in 2002. Maya’s target clients are low-income women with a primary school education that have limited chances of finding a job in the formal economy. Turkey has a large informal economy, so most of Maya’s clients want to set up a small-scale business or enhance their existing small-scale business. Many of their clients work from home but some have small shops, or work in market stalls. Most of these businesses are in the trade sector but some are in the manufacturing and service sectors. Since most of the businesses are unregistered, the women are unable to access regular financial services.
Have you been wondering why Maya has only posted 35 entrepreneur profiles on the Kiva website? And that they all have been individuals? You may know from my first post about Maya or Maya Field Partner Page, that Maya offers group loans—so why isn’t Maya posting any?
By Kimberly Strathearn | KF 16/17 | Turkey
In previous blog posts, I have introduced the Maya Istanbul office, the Sakarya branch office, and the Izmit branch office. This blog will highlight the Eskişehir branch office, introduce Nermin Akar and Serpil Altıntaş and provide an update on three entrepreneurs.
Kimberly Strathearn | KF 16 | Istanbul, Turkey
Although you will find many familiar fast food restaurants in Turkey, I have never understood why they are popular. Turkish food is just too darn good. When I first started living in Turkey in 1998, there was very little western fast food, very little packaged junk food, and very little prepared foods (i.e. bottled sauces, frozen vegetable, mixes and other packaged foods). I used to bring back lots of food items when I visited my family once a year. Now I only bring back chili powder for when I occasionally make tacos (don’t have to bring tortillas back anymore, Turkey now grows avocados, and I substitute fresh yogurt for sour cream).
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.
By Kim Strathearn, KF16, Turkey
If It Is Tuesday, it must be Izmit. Maya’s Kocaeli / Izmit branch is about 1 ½ hours away from Istanbul and every Tuesday, either Aylin or Asu, or both from the Istanbul office make the trip to approve borrower applications. These visits always take place in the business or home (if that were she works from) of the potential borrower.
The office is located in a small mall in the downtown area. Pelin (now on maternity leave) and Songül staff the office.
By Laurie Young, KF16, Indonesia
According to the World Bank of Indonesia, more than 50% of Indonesians live on less than $2 US per day/per person and more than 80% live on less than $4 US per day/per person. In addition to this, they estimate that greater than one-third of households don’t have access to any formal financial services and microinsurance in the market is negligible. To put this in perspective, the population of Indonesia is estimated at around 245 million and, “in Indonesia today, about one third of the population, or about 77 million people have no financial protection or savings cushion.”
So what type of access do VisionFund Indonesia Kiva borrowers have to microinsurance in Indonesia? Additionally, what is being done to improve the marketplace as a whole in order to increase access to insurance for the poor? I will try to answer these two questions in this two-part blog.
By Kim Strathearn, KF16, Turkey
If It Is Thursday, It Must Be Sakarya and either Aylin or Asu from the Istanbul office will make the 2 ½ hour drive each way to visit potential loan clients and conduct the final interview for loan approvals. Since the office covers a large area, sometimes they both go. It depends on how many loan application approval visits they have to make and how far spread out the clients are. Click on Ayse, Mine, and Hayriye’s profiles to see some Kiva entrepreneurs from the Sakarya region.
Maya’s Sakarya branch office is located in Adapazarı and was established in 2005. Adapazari is the capital of the Sakarya province and this branch also provides services to clients in the neighboring province of Düzce. Maya Istanbul office has been providing loans to women entrepreneurs in Düzce since 2004 but assigned the area to the Sakayra office because it is easier to serve from Adapazari than from Istanbul.
Unlike some of my KF 16 fellows classmates, I did not have to rush to the bookstore to read up on the country where I was about to be posted, figure out if my cell phone would work overseas, or learn about internet capabilities because Istanbul has been my home for about the last 12 years. I am lucky that I already have an apartment, know how to get around, know how to order what I want to eat and even knew where my MFI was located. No panic attacks about my new location but lots of panic about blogging and about what my first blog should be on.
“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.
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.