Revelations by the director of Komak, Kiva field partner in Azerbaijan

10 June 2010 at 23:13 9 comments

By Yelena Shuster, K11, Azerbaijan

I’d like to tell you a little bit about Komak, the MFI (microfinance institution), where I am serving my Kiva fellowship.  Komak, which means “help” in Azerbaijani, has offices in four regions: Baku, Absheron, Khachmas and Fizuli. The central office, where I have spent most of my time is located in Baku, the capital city. Here I work with five other people: Aydin, the director; Emin, information technology; Aliabbas, accounting; Elnur, bookkeeping; and Afitab, the Kiva coordinator. With over 1,600 current active members, 80% of whom are IDPs (internally displaced people), Komak is a small but energetic MFI.

The regions where Komak has offices: Baku (main office), Absheron (kind of like the suburbs of Baku), Khachmas & Fizuli city.

I asked Aydin, who’s been the director of Komak since its inception in 1999 to tell me about its beginnings and goals…

Aydin grew up in Fizuli and studied technology and food conservation in Odessa, Ukraine. He was living with his family in Fizuli, working as the manager of technology at the local wine factory (Fizuli afterall is one of most fertile regions in the Caucus, producing a variety of distinctive grapes from which delicious wine can be made) when the geopolitical conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh broke out with Armenia in 1992. As Armenian forces occupied his home town, Aydin and his family fled to the neighboring city of Horadiz, leaving all their belonging behind. Soon after their resettlement, Armenians occupied Horadiz as well and Aydin’s family moved again. His wife and five children went to Baku, where they stayed with relatives, while Aydin tried to forge out a living through agriculture in Ahmedbeyei for the next 5 years.

Map of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. Fizuli region (shown in the first map) is almost entirely under the jurisdiction of Armenia, however, Fizuli city (where some Komak clients live) still belongs to Azerbaijan.

In 1998, Azerbaijan joined WOCCU (World Council of Credit Unions), enabling formation of the country’s first credit unions. Prior to this, only NGOs like FINCA and Worldvision, provided microloans. At that early point in the history of credit unions in Azerbaijan all that was needed to form a credit union was a charter, 20 members who lived near each other and a 4000 AZN start-up minimum. So in 1999, Aydin and 19 other IDPs formed Komak. The first five people to take loans from Komak in its first year bought cows and sheep (four borrowers bought a cow each and one borrower bought four sheep). With the money earned from the sale of milk products and the lambs, the borrowers repaid the principle with 10% interest by the following year, enabling five more borrowers to take loans. At this time the need for microfinance, especially among IDPs (who had left everything, including their banking documents that could show that they were ‘credit worthy’ to banks) was very strong.

In 2001, Komak got its first grant from TACIS (Technical Aid to the Commonweal of Independent States), a program implemented by the European Commission to provide foreign and technical assistance to countries in transition to democratic market-oriented economies. With this credit of $57,000 Komak’s membership increased drastically. In 2003, Komak opened offices in Baku and Absheron. As an increasing number of IDPs resettled in Baku and the outlying Absheron region, Komak decided to relocate the main office to Baku as well. From the capital, contact with foreign donors was also easier.

At the end of 2006, Komak began fundraising on Kiva. Since then they have lent over $2 million to 1757 borrowers through Kiva. I’m here to help Komak improve their footing on Kiva by helping them make sense of Kiva logistics and assist in the creation of borrower profiles so that they can interest more Kiva lenders. As I’ve written in a previous post, Azerbaijan is one of the most difficult regions in terms of soliciting Kiva funds. I hope that my presence will help Komak and Kiva’s lenders learn more about each other and connect for the benefit of people in Azerbaijan.

In 2007, Mix Market, the leading source of performance data on MFIs around the world, awarded Komak a certificate of transparency with 5 diamonds (the highest rating). Aydin’s goal for Komak is to expand its membership gradually while keeping up with the standards of transparency and accountability set by the international community. He thanks Kiva for doing “Godly work,” evoking and developing our innate humanitarian conscience with opportunities to help others and compelling both borrowers and lenders to think about their role in the world. Aydin says “Kiva unites not only individuals, but nations, in a common purpose and sense of fulfillment.”

Elnur, Me, Afitab, Patricia (Kiva's Regional Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia), Aydin, and Aliabbas.

You can support Komak borrowers on Kiva or join the team, Friends of Komak!

Hörmətlə,
(Truly yours)

Aydin & Yelena

Entry filed under: Azerbaijan, blogsherpa, KF11 (Kiva Fellows 11th Class), Komak Credit Union. Tags: , , , .

Do the poor have dreams?/ A quoi rêvent les pauvres? The many faces of the Tajik celebration

9 Comments

  • 1. War Zone Microfinance | Nothing Ventured  |  13 June 2012 at 12:04

    […] former urban dwellers forced to flee their cities and learn subsistence agriculture to survive (see Yelena Shuster’s KF11 blog post in which she shares Aydın’s story). Even today, the IDPs of Füzuli are among the poorest people […]

  • 2. Back in the saddle | Nothing Ventured  |  23 December 2011 at 04:55

    […] Komak, meanwhile, goes even farther: it was founded to help the IDP community of Azerbaijan, period, and the usual concerns of business are seen as very much subordinate to its social mission. It employs IDPs almost exclusively, and fully 80% of its loans are made within the IDP community. Its director, Aydin, was a manager at a wine factory in the city of Füzuli, Nagorno-Karabakh, but had to flee his home when Armenian forces occupied his hometown (one of my Kiva Fellow predecessors, Yelena Shuster, has written a post sharing Aydin’s story). […]

  • […] at AqroInvest, ensures that I arrive at work and at home safely each day.  And Ayden, the director of Komak, calls Yelena (and maybe me, one day!) his […]

  • […] I’ve written in a previous post, Fuzuli is an important place for my MFI, as it is the place where Komak was founded amongst 20 […]

  • 5. katimayfield  |  11 June 2010 at 05:09

    what an interesting profile, Yelena! Aydin and Komak are an inspiration, and you do such a good job telling their story! can’t wait to keep reading!

  • 6. charmaine  |  11 June 2010 at 02:06

    thank you for doing this post!

  • 7. Antoine S. TERJANIAN  |  11 June 2010 at 01:03

    Excellent post.
    May God bring peace to the region

  • 8. Update 3 « Thought soup  |  10 June 2010 at 23:28

    […] 11, 2010 Read my third update to the Kiva fellows blog here about the history of Komak, the credit union where I work, as told to me by the director […]

  • 9. Neal Camp  |  10 June 2010 at 23:24

    Thanks for your devotion to Kiva and microfinance. The kind of work you are doing is the best road to global peace and prosperity!
    Have a happy day and greetings to your colleagues!!


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