Posts tagged ‘poverty alleviation’
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.
By Anya Raza | KF18 | Pakistan
Secretly, every fellow really just wants to be in the field.
The thrill-seekers in us wish to go to obscure far-flung places, desperate and desolate, yet magical in our minds.
In my case, not even our car breaking down could hold me back. So off we went, three women on a dusty road. Sometimes we need life to slow down around us, to match the pace of our surroundings. As we moseyed our way through the village, we passed a local mela (fair), complete with food stands, game stalls and a theme park.
The sight of a Ferris wheel halted my breath – my daytime reverie saw me floating above this tiny village less than two hours from Lahore, thrust into a utopian state of oblivion. Upon close inspection I realised there was no one in it, and I was told tearfully that these operate on generators, therefore the chances of dangling above my dreams were high. Ah, it’s just as well. (more…)
By Kiva Fellows in Africa, KF16
Compiled by Tejal Desai
Ow de body! Are Sierra Leone and Rwanda still danger zones? What challenges do Ugandans most commonly face? Kiva Fellows from KF16 bring you another 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. Our part 2 series follows the Kiva Fellows through Sierra Leone, Rwanda, and Uganda. We hope our summaries give you a new perspective on the continent and its distinct countries that we’ve been fortunate to explore, thanks to the Kiva fellowship!
By Stephanie Sibal, KF14, Cambodia
It oftentimes begins with the aspiration of achieving something bigger: many enterprising Kiva borrowers request loans to start new ventures or expand businesses. Some rely on a Kiva loan to remedy a setback.
However, not all borrowers take out loans with the intention of starting or growing a business. Coming from places where running water, electricity, and sometimes even a roof for their house are considered luxuries, countless borrowers request loans to improve the quality of their lives.
Three months and nearly a dozen trips into rural Cambodian provinces of Kampong Chhnang, Takeo, and Kandal have provided me with opportunities to chat intimately with borrowers who are grateful to lenders for allowing them what the developed world calls “the bare necessities.”
By Stephanie Sibal, KF14, Cambodia
My first couple of weeks serving as a Kiva Fellow in Cambodia were in many ways, a true shock to my system. The country’s capital, Phnom Penh, is a dizzy blur of lights, motorbikes, colonial-inspired architecture, and savory street food aromas that take some getting used to. However, nothing snaps a Kiva Fellow out of homesickness faster than a visit (or two) to the field. While working with CREDIT, one of Kiva’s oldest partners in Cambodia, I had the pleasure of leaving the busy city life two visit two borrowers in rural provinces.
Fundación Paraguaya (FP) ha sido socio de Kiva desde mediados del 2007 y ahora recauda alrededor de 200,000 dólares por mes en prestamos. Además de las microfinanzas, la Fundación tiene otras actividades y programas, uno de ellos es Ikatú que se enfoca en disminuir la pobreza. Este sábado pasado fue un dia especial ya que por primera vez se realizó un evento para reunir a los cuatro grupos de mujeres que participan en este programa con el objetivo de compartir experiencias y conocimientos, ampliar las redes de contactos y motivarse unas a otras. El evento fue un éxito y un paso adelante en un camino largo hacia su meta.
Fundación Paraguaya has been a Kiva Partner since mid 2007, and is now raising around $200,000 in loans from Kiva every month. In addition to microfinance, FP has many activities and programs; Ikatú is one of those other programs and focuses on alleviating poverty. Last Saturday was a very special day, for the first time, the four groups of women participating in Ikatú got together to share knowledge and good practices, grow their network and motivate each other. The event was a success and a step forward on a long road to achieve its goal.
I’d be lying if I said I’m a full believer in microfinance. Each time I hear a client say they’re taking out their fifth loan to restock their shelves, I wince and wonder why they aren’t yet able to sustain such a small business without such small loans. I want so much to hear that the loan will go toward some innovation, I want to hear that they’re seeking to do more with their business, I want to hear that they dream of financial independence and they plan to step out of their fetters. I want to believe this work will do more than alleviate poverty, but really transform it into comfort or wealth.
And now and then, I realize it’s not my dreams that they’re fulfilling.
If you’re tuning in for the first time, you’re in for a treat! Watch as a group of women in a remote province of northern Vietnam receive access to credit for the very first time. Feel their hope, hear their fears, and share in the laughter =)
This is the last of a 3-part video blogging series in which I attempt to give you a snapshot of the person-to-person experience you would have if you were to follow your $25 Kiva loan to Vietnam. I hope you enjoy!
Ed Coambs KF9 Philippines, Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation
What will the field hold for me today as I go out to complete my first Kiva mission. I have been asked to spend time completing ten borrower verifications. The idea is first introduced to me during my fellowship training. The borrower verification process is one of the requirements for a Micro Finance Institution (MFI) that has partnered with Kiva to move from pilot to active status. (The pilot stage is designed to allow Kiva to evaluate the MFI, and their ability to meet all Kiva requirements. All MFI’s start in pilot status with a low fundraising limit and once they move to active status have their fundraising limit raised.) During training as I am introduced to the borrower verification process I think oh no problem I can knock this out in a day. All I have to do is take some photo’s, check documents, and ask some questions about the borrowers business. Well what unfolds (more…)