By Frederic Billou, KF13, Benin
As a Kiva Fellow working with ALIDe, Kiva’s partner in Benin, I am spending a lot of my time working with loan officers (“agent de credit”) in the field, visiting Kiva borrowers.
The loan officers, employed by ALIDe, are key to Kiva’s model since they are our eyes and ears on the ground, interacting with borrowers on a daily basis. They are really loved by the community and true ambassadors to both Kiva and ALIDe since 100% of ALIDe’s business comes via word of mouth. In fact, you really can’t ride around in their patch without having to stop every 30 seconds to say hi to one of their Kiva borrowers. Of course, seeing a “yovo” (an affectionate term meaning “white person” in Fon, the main dialect of Benin) only increases the borrowers’ curiosity, and offers yet another reason to stop by, come in and visit for a bit.
Whenever I am offered something to drink, I regretfully have to decline since my “yovo stomach” can not handle the local water. Instead, I pull out what I call my “yovo water” (ie bottled water) and share it with the household. The term “yovo water” usually triggers many laughs and interesting questions around food and what else I can’t handle. I am happy to report that, so far, the local spicy food and I are getting along just fine. So far.
I spent the last two days with Rose, one of my favorite loan officers, visiting existing borrowers as well as prospects. Here is a picture of Rose taking a picture of a new Kiva borrower, Odette Tchedji, to be able to publish the loan request on the website:
You can click here to see the actual borrower profile as it appeared on the site. As you may notice, this loan was funded on the site in less than 24 hours, a true testament to our community of lenders and the overall velocity of the Kiva model.
We also visited Noussirath Zannou, an existing borrower, to understand whether the recent floods had impacted her and how she was doing overall. She showed us how far the water had risen during the recent floods, but thankfully, confirmed that her family was safe, and that she was able to salvage most of her inventory (she is in the business of selling health-related supplies, such as toothpaste and soap, from home). Despite these recent challenges, she is able to pay back her loan on schedule and is looking forward to getting a larger loan in the future to further grow her business.
As you can see from her doorstep, even though the rain stopped in earnest almost a month ago, things are not back to normal yet. As a side note, it can be quite challenging to ride on a motorcycle in this mud, so let’s just say that wearing beige pants that day wasn’t my most brilliant idea.
To Be Continued
Frederic Billou is a Roaming Kiva Fellow currently working in Benin.