Posts tagged ‘mongolia’
Last week I started visiting some of Kiva’s borrowers with Transcapital, one of Kiva’s field partners that I’m working with here in Mongolia. While it was really encouraging to see Transcapital’s enthusiasm for Kiva at the head office as well as its various branch offices around Ulaanbaatar (UB), the new insights I’ve gained on urban poverty—both from these visits as well as just day-to-day life here—have left me perplexed so far, with far more questions than answers.
A short term solution?
Our visits began with a stop at Narantuul market, the largest outdoor market in UB where a number of Transcapital’s clients have retail outlets. At a first glance, Narantuul is a colourful and vibrant marketplace where vendors sell everything from food and candy, to winter coats, scarves, belts, jeans, baseball caps, cardboard, and more. It’s the place where Mongolians often go to find cheaper wares, which makes sense considering some of the staggering prices I’ve seen at Ikh Delguur, the State Department Store. We spoke to Bayasgalan, the proud owner of a shop selling winter coats and clothes, a long time client of Transcapital’s, and a Kiva borrower.
Other vendors watched us with curiosity as we chatted with her, and the mood at the market was lively despite the cold. But my translator friend, whose family had sold candy there, explained to me as we left that pretty much all the vendors there need continual loans to in order to sustain their businesses. Without loans, they can’t operate; but even with loans, they struggle to get ahead… which is anything but encouraging.
Harsh working conditions
The next day, we visited Kharkhorin market, UB’s second largest outdoor market, located on the other side of the city. The wares there were slightly different: I saw lots of shoes, but also an eclectic collection of hardware parts, sinks, ropes, tools, and other random second-hand items.
We had trouble locating one of the two borrowers we had to meet, so we wandered around for some time looking for her. In the meantime we met and chatted with Saranchimeg, who had used her loan to increase her supply of winter boots. We had been outside for about 45 minutes by the time we finished chatting with her, and I thought my fingers and toes might fall off. It must have been around -25oC that day with the sharp wind whipping through the stalls. But my thoughts were with the market’s vendors who stand out there all day long, day in and day out. My translator friend assured me that, just because they’ve lived in Mongolia their whole lives, it doesn’t make the cold is any easier for them to bear. I was humbled by how hard they work.
The reality for taxi drivers
We also visited with some taxi drivers. While a male taxi driver may not be one of the sexiest loans on Kiva’s website, you should know how hard these people work to support their families, just like anyone else. And for what? Being a taxi driver is a tough way to make a living in UB: A one-kilometre ride will earn a driver about 1,500 Tugriks (or 1.07 USD).
Moreover, the competition is stiff. Since cars have become ubiquitous in Mongolia’s capital, everyone has become a taxi driver. It’s an overhang from the early days of capitalism, when cars were not that common and the city’s residents would help each other out by giving rides. Now, you see people on the streets with their hand out all the time, and it usually only takes a few minutes for a car to pull over.
Another borrower we met lived in one of the outer ger districts, the slums of the city which lack basic services like running water and sanitation. He was middle-aged and had taken out a housing loan, but he told us that he had been a driver under the socialist regime. He explained that he had had much difficulty in finding employment in his profession. Recently, though, he has started applying for driver jobs again. It’s a mystery to me how he has managed to make ends meet over the years.
Survival of the fittest?
It’s easy to think that people don’t work because they’re too lazy, or because they simply refuse to accept lower-paying positions. This may be true in some cases. But there may also be more to the issue than meets the eye. Mongolia had its Revolution and transition to a market economy in the early 1990s and it seems the transition was difficult for those who were brought up and educated in the socialist era: Many of their skills and experiences have not translated well in the new economy. While a lot of the leadership I’ve seen in white collar jobs are shockingly young—in their late 20s or early 30s—street and market vendors tend to be in their 50s or older. And for many of them, their wares include no more than a couple handfuls of gum and candy, which can’t possibly bring in that much at the end of the day.
Maybe skills training is needed to support these people… or maybe it’s not that simple. Imagine being in your 40s or 50s and getting trained (or competing for jobs) alongside people who are a whole generation younger than you. And the longer you stay out of the workforce, the less confidence you generally have to return to it. One colleague of mine surmised that perhaps self-employment is the way to go for these people.
The fork in the road
Of course, this reflects only one facet of urban poverty here. Another, and perhaps larger, driver is the massive migration of traditional nomadic herders to the capital, as zuuds—extremely harsh winters—have killed off the millions of animals on which they depend for their livelihoods.
Mongolia has gone through some incredible changes over the past several years, thanks to the discovery of the largest unexploited reserve of copper, gold and silver in the world. Roads have appeared where they previously didn’t exist; herders have disappeared from the streets of UB; shiny new buildings have gone up; inflation has gone through the roof. It’s poised to be one of the fastest growing economies in the world in 2013.
There is immense potential for large-scale economic development and poverty alleviation in Mongolia. Microfinance is helping to tie things over, but how the country handles big issues such as corruption will ultimately determine whether the spoils will be shared by many. So far, everything I’ve taken in only seems to have raised more questions. I’ve only scratched the surface in terms of grasping the complex economic factors at work in this country, much less understanding the solutions.
Compiled by Isabel Balderrama | KF17 | Ecuador
Welcome to this week’s Update from the Field! In the past few days we’ve had blog posts come to us from all corners of the world. From hearing about the prevailing Nomadic lifestyles of the people of Mongolia, to Kenya, where we journey along on an adventure-filled trip to meet a Kiva borrower in person. After touching down on Palestine and meeting a group of women that have successfully formed a cooperative, we are whisked away to the islands of Samoa where we are treated to two excellent videos illustrating life in this mysterious-to-some archipelago. From there, we come back to the Asian continent where we find two fellows located in two very culturally dissimilar countries, Ukraine and Indonesia, comparing and contrasting their experiences with borrower privacy. Hope you enjoy this week’s trip around the globe courtesy of this ever-audacious group of Kiva Fellows!
Update from the Field: Colorful Markets, Microfinance for Students + Springtime Flowers and Celebrations
Compiled by Allison Moomey | KF16 & KF17 | Bénin
Springtime has arrived and fellows around the world are celebrating the resfreshing new life springing from the ground. From millions of tulips in Turkey to smelling family members and friends in Mongolia, fellows have been busy embracing the unique cultures of their host countries. Join Isabel as she explores Ecuador’s colorful markets, Natalie as she discovers an innovative mirofinance program run from a high school, and Kim as she celebrates the colorful fields of flowers in Turkey. Finally, see how the debut of spring is enjoyed around the world with Jon in Mongolia, Chris in the Ukraine, Jen in Cambodia, Natalie in Cameroon, and Kiyomi and Emmanuel in Mexico.
Compiled by Kiyomi Beach | KF17 | Mexico
Whether shaking off the chill of winter, welcoming the rainy season, or experiencing any other climate change, the spring can definitely be a time to celebrate. Some countries celebrate big which can mean local business owners have a surge in income from selling items related to the festivities. Sales for new clothes, fabrics for costumes, candies, and specialty foods increase, which give some Kiva borrowers an extra reason to celebrate.
While we may all be familiar with some holidays or festivals, each culture celebrates what may seam like a familiar holiday differently. Some countries have celebrations that are uniquely their own, with the common threads being are family and fun. Lets see how a few of the fellows celebrated.
Update from the Field: Non-Financial Services, Employment Discrimination + The Dark Side of Sustainable Tourism
Compiled by Chris Paci | KF16 & KF17 | Ukraine
It’s been a busy week here on Kiva Stories from the Field! Most of our KF17 fellows have been in the field for two months by this point, and they’ve been drawing on their wealth of on-the-ground experience to unpack some of the more complex and troubling aspects of life in their host societies. In a series of fascinating posts, our fellows tackle employment discrimination in Indonesia, the dark side of sustainable tourism in Mozambique, and the difficulty all Kiva Fellows face in keeping sight of our end goal of poverty alleviation – not to mention our most harrowing borrower verification story yet. But there’s plenty of lighter fare this week too. Tag along with our fellows as they join a football club in Togo, help a new partner post its first Kiva profiles in Cameroon, and teach us about the inspirational non-financial services that Kiva’s field partners provide. (more…)
Jon Hiebert | KF 17 | Mongolia
I woke up on Friday morning just like every other morning. Slightly pleased with the late start of 9:00 a.m., I still felt awkward getting dressed in my business suit. Then I enjoyed my Choco Chips cereal with milk in bed while getting mentally prepared for another day of laptop projects.
Lookin’ good but a little anxious in my suit.
To get to the office, I walked the tiled sidewalks only recently freed from a four-month coat of ice. I went upstairs, set up my Macbook in Transcapital‘s clean, newly-renovated office in the city center, and continued with my work. I was excited to be working on a report that will help transition another microfinance institution (MFI) from pilot program to full-fledged field partner. It’s still being assessed by Kiva Headquarters. This is just one of a number of projects I’m working on for Kiva, in addition to projects I’ve been asked to complete by the MFIs here. Today will be a productive day, I thought to myself.
But other thoughts started crowding my head. I really need a haircut, I haven’t shined my shoes in four days, I should really get another winter hat so I don’t have to wear my old blond fox one every single day. I also found myself being more and more affected — and even disillusioned — by the city’s office culture. Of course, I work with wonderful people here — but I found myself losing track of why I’m in Mongolia in the first place. (more…)
Update From The Field: Client Visits In Bethlehem, A New Partnership In Cameroon + A Peek Into A Loan Officer’s World
Compiled by Allison Moomey | KF16 & KF17 | Bénin
KF17 fellows have now made their way into the field, which means new workplaces, new countries, and new cultures for us all. Even more importantly it means fascinating new blog posts from every corner of the globe for you. Check out this week’s posts and join fellows as they observe microfinance in action Palestine, share about a great new partner in Cameroon, visit a village bank in Peru, and adjust to life in Togo. Then continue reading to learn about a cricket-raising business in Indonesia, microsavings in Mozambique, Senegalese politics, an apartment search in Mongolia, and a loan officer training in the Philippines.
Jon Hiebert | KF 17 | Mongolia
When looking for an apartment in a new city, common sense would guide you to look online, contact a realtor or network through ex-pats and friends that work and live in the area already. But common sense seems to be very relative here in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia…
“I’ll take you for a walk to some areas where you might want to live,” says Ron, a new friend of mine who wants to help us hunt for apartments.
“Sure,” I reply, thinking it would be good to get an idea of what places looked like and what they are near.
At this point, I had been in Ulaanbaatar for just 30 hours and was living in a guesthouse downtown. I had met an American Fulbright researcher, Hannah, and we were thinking of finding an apartment together.
Mongolian Parliament. No wonder this is called the “Land of the Eternal Blue Skies.” (more…)
As you may know, since August 2009, XacBank has offered Kiva borrowers an incentive to pay their loan principal and interest back on time – an interest rebate in a savings account! If a Kiva borrower pays back on time, then XacBank deposits 9 percent of the interest the borrower has paid on their loan into a savings account. As a Kiva Fellow, I have worked with XacBank to update their policies regarding how Kiva borrowers are considered eligible for interest rebates and simplify how the MFI offers the savings accounts to new Kiva borrowers.
By David McNeill (Sierra Leone) and Adam Cohn (Rwanda), with lots of help from the 14th class of Kiva Fellows
It turns out that one thing Kiva Fellows seem to have in common is a love for data. With that, Kiva Fellows David and Adam polled the current fellows in the field on the costs of various necessities and niceties in their current placements. The numbers, which we humbly title the Kiva Fellows Index, give some good insight into the conditions in the far-flung places we now live and work.
Far from home
Kiva Fellows are in it for the long haul. On average, we’re 5,745 miles away from home, as the crow flies. The fellows who have trucked the farthest, at least by line of sight, are: Adam Cohn, who crossed 8,892 miles from Seattle, WA to Kigali, Rwanda; Caitlin Ross, who also went to Kigali from her home in Burlingame, CA, for a total of 9,417 miles; and the longest haul goes to Lisa Skowron, who flew 9,519 miles from her home in Chicago, IL to Kupang, Indonesia!
The first prize for the slowest Internet speed goes to Carlos Cruz in Liberia, with a close second and third for Claudine Emeott in Nepal and David McNeill in Sierra Leone. They experience speeds 10-100 times slower than in the US, making them thankful to the Kiva engineers who make Kiva.org one of the quicker websites to load. At these speeds video chatting is impossible, voice is dodgy if possible at all, and emails aren’t even guaranteed to work. Forget about watching videos on YouTube or listening to Internet radio. Having Internet access is quickly becoming almost as important as having electricity or indoor plumbing.
Many of us are serving in hot parts of the world without the blessing of air conditioning. The unlucky winners in this category are neighbors in West Africa – Carlos Cruz in Liberia and David McNeill in Sierra Leone. They survive high temperatures in the low 90’s (F) and lows that only get down to the upper 70’s or low 80’s (F). Carlos, we hope you’ve got a fan and electricity to run it like David does (most of the time).
On the other side of the spectrum, Amber Barger is struggling to keep warm in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia where it dips down to -9 (F) at night. David would be happy to trade one of his hot sunny beaches for some of Amber’s ice!
Carlos Cruz got the sweetest deal on rent, with free housing courtesy of his host microfinance institution in Liberia. The runner up is Gustavo Visalli in Totonicapan, Guatemala. He pays only $100/month, and that includes electricity, a flush toilet, and all the black beans and eggs he can eat!
There are some definite advantages to working in developing countries. Most of us spend less than $1 getting to work each day riding buses, motorcycles, or other modes of public transportation. For David in Sierra Leone, a ride in the back of a car taxi to a town 2.5 hours away only costs $3.50 (there are four people squished in a seat made for three, though). Stephanie Sibal has the sweetest deal on transportation – her host organization in Phnom Penh, Cambodia provides her a car and driver to bring her in to work in the morning.
With the cost of oil on the rise, we did a quick poll of gas prices where we are serving. The highest price is in South Africa at $5/gallon. If you want the cheapest price, you’ll have to drive to Indonesia ($2.15/gallon) or Kyrgyzstan ($2.73/gallon).
For refreshment, Stephanie Sibal is a definite winner – she only has to pay 15 cents for a Coke served in a plastic baggie! The following people have a four-way tie for the cheapest beer at only $1 a bottle: Stephanie Sibal again (Phnom Penh, Cambodia), John Gwillim (Barranquilla, Colombia), Geeta Uhl (Ayacucho, Peru), and John Farmer (Mexico City, Mexico). For coffee, some people like John Farmer have the luxury of a nearby Starbucks in Mexico City, Adam Cohn can drink 100% local coffee at multiple Bourbon locations in Rwanda, while poor Noreen Giga is still searching for a good cup in Lima, Peru.
As you can see, some of life’s necessities are more accessible, while others are prohibitive, for those who relocate to the other side of the globe. If you’d like to look at our full spreadsheet of stats, you can see it here.
Have you found places where a Coke is incredibly expensive, or internet is mind-blowingly slow? Let us know in the comments!
By Amber Barger, KF14, Mongolia
A borrower verification is a thorough check of ten random Kiva borrowers of a field partner. It’s used to verify the accuracy of the information published on the borrower profiles on the Kiva website. A borrower verification happens several times throughout the course of a partnership in order to assess a microfinance institution’s performance levels. Read below about the ten borrowers I visited through a borrower verification with XacBank.
Happy Lunar New Year! Сар шинэдээ сайхан шинэлээрэй, as we say in Mongolian. Today, the countries and communities across the world who traditionally follow the lunar calendar are celebrating the first day of the New Year! Boy! – Microloan demands sure have been high lately. The need for loans center around traditional activities practiced for the Lunar New Year holiday.
A Kiva Coordinator is someone who organizes and manages the Kiva program at one of Kiva’s field partners. Watch the video to find out what a Kiva Coordinator does everyday, their favorite aspects of working with Kiva, and also the challenges of being a Kiva Coordinator. As a Roaming Fellow, I had the opportunity to interview three Mongolian field partners – XacBank, Credit Mongol, and Transcapital.
The winter technically began on the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year – December 22. Although from October, families have been making fires to keep warm and temperatures have been well below freezing. Now we’re in the fourth set of nines in the Mongolian winter, the coldest set! I woke up this morning to -33 degree Fahrenheit temperatures in the capital city. The seasonal calendar greatly influences the types of micro businesses in Mongolia. In the wintertime, many of the businesses focus on keeping the general population warm.
By Amber Barger, KF13, Mongolia.
Recently, I was able to travel to the countryside and combine many of my Kiva Fellow duties into one trip. With XacBank, I traveled to Uvurkhangai and Bayankhongor Provinces together with the Kiva Coordinator. We interviewed Kiva entrepreneurs, attended trade fairs, trained loan officers, and participated in a very special certificate ceremony – all in four days!
November 26 is a national Mongolian holiday. November 26, 1924 was the day that Mongolia declared itself as an independent country with the adoption of its first constitution. The Mongolian People’s Republic (MPR), a communist state, under the rule of the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP), lasted until 1990.
Mongolia is known for its vast amount of open space and beautiful scenery. The population density of Mongolia is just over 1 person per square kilometer. In this post, I’ll share photos from the most rural of businesses to the most urban.
The term “countryside” can be translated into “khuudoo” in Mongolian language. However, the meaning of the word is slightly different in English and Mongolian. The term khuudoo in Mongolian is relative to where you are from in the country and where you are when you say the word.
By Amber Barger, KF12, Mongolia.
Mongolia is a landlocked country spanning 1,564,116 sq km, slightly smaller than Alaska. It’s situated between Russia and China. The main forms of transportation available from international destinations are flights from Russia, China, Korea, and Japan and the train route from Russia and China. Domestic flights, the train route and transport by road are options within Mongolia.
Small business owners normally don’t have the money to fly to and from Ulaanbaatar, this luxury is usually only attainable for government officials, foreigners, and wealthier urban Mongolians.
By Amber Barger, KF12, Mongolia.
If you browse Mongolian borrower profiles on Kiva.org, you’ll notice that most of them say that the borrower lives in traditional Mongolian housing named a ger, more commonly known as a yurt. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to visit borrowers who live in traditional gers and who work in ger-producing workshops.
By Amber Barger, KF12, Mongolia.
The past five years XacBank, a Kiva field partner, has been providing higher-education loans for university students. The bank has also created a savings account named Future Millionaire, for children under the age of eighteen. More recently, the bank has targeted a younger group of students, as young as eight years old, to provide personal finance and social education. XacBank is currently implementing two youth financial education programs – Aflatoun and Aspire.
By Amber Barger, KF12, Mongolia.
Mongolians have been practicing the art of transforming milk into dozens of dairy products for hundreds of years. Nowadays, about 40 percent of the workforce is engaged in activities surrounding animal husbandry and products made from livestock. As Kiva’s August food month is coming to an end, here’s some insight into dairy product producers and distributors in Mongolia.
By Amber Barger, KF12, Mongolia
The goals of the United States Peace Corps and the Kiva Fellows Program fit quite well with each other. Because of this, I’m able to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) and Kiva Fellow at the same time. Both programs promote cross-cultural awareness and capacity building within the given host community. Let’s look at how the volunteer programs relate to each other.
Currently on Kiva.org there are almost 100 loans looking for funding for personal housing expenses. The purchase of a home, and the subsequent improvements, is one of the largest household expenditure items in almost any country.
Often on the Kiva website, lenders will see entrepreneurs looking to borrow money to stock their business shelves for an upcoming holiday. In the United States we see retailers plan for the Christmas shopping season, in Central and South America businesses prepare for Carnaval sales and in Mongolia one of the biggest holidays that small businesses look forward to is Tsagaan Sar, the Lunar New Year.
Please give a warm Kiva welcome to our newest partner in Mongolia: Credit Mongol LLC! Credit Mongol (CM) is based in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, and is Kiva’s second partner in Mongolia. Credit Mongol is excited about this new partnership with Kiva and is looking forward to building connections between the Kiva lending community and borrowers in Mongolia!
“On March 27, 2010, an estimated one billion people around the world came together to call for action on climate change by doing something quite simple—turning off their lights for just one hour—Earth Hour.” Starting at 8:30pm in New Zealand and following the setting sun around the world, Earth Hour asked people to turn off their lights for one hour, adding up to a global 24 hours without lights. Internationally recognizable monuments like the Eiffel Tower, Empire State Building, the Golden Gate Bridge, even the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Brazil slipped into darkness for an hour on the 27th for the cause. The excitement and enthusiasm for Earth Hour even made its way to Mongolia!
Mongolians are used to dealing with a cold winter – temperatures are typically in the -20s (F) with the winds can be brutal. This winter however, has taken on a deadly intensity. Summer droughts have combined with early and heavy snowfall to create what in Mongolia is known as a dzud. One of the harshest features of a dzud is the livestock’s inability to find or reach pasture under the snow, leading to mass starvation of the herds. This winter’s dzud has seen temperatures close to -60F and the UN is reporting that 2.7 million livestock have perished so far. The Mongolian government is estimating that another 3 million could be lost by the end of the cold season in June.*
Yes, it might be the dead of winter in Mongolia, with temperatures hovering around -30 degrees Fahrenheit, but the loan products here have been turning green. Thanks to the hard work of the Eco Products Team at XacBank in Mongolia, Kiva lenders saw an introduction of 3 new types of personal consumption ‘green loans’ in December 2009:
Energy Efficient Stoves
Ger (yurt) covers
Energy efficient fuel
By Jane Lim, KF9 Mongolia
I am convinced that my borrower videos have been lost in the abyss which is the Kiva journal tab (it currently has 5224 unsearchable pages), so I had to find another platform for their airing. I.e., here!
Posting a video journal entry takes a considerable amount of work, and I thought I would lay the process out here so they will be more appreciated ;)
(I have also inserted one of my video journals here rather than below to pique your interest, so please click the “read more” button after you’re done watching!)