The world of Kiva and my first experiences with borrowers in Bolivia

4 February 2011 at 12:00 1 comment


My name is Clara and I am from the Netherlands (there they call me Klaartje). I took a sabbatical from my job at KPMG in order to volunteer and travel in Bolivia, together with my husband. After being trained in San Francisco at the Kiva Headquarters, I arrived in La Paz two weeks ago. It’s great to be a Kiva ambassador, especially because Kiva’s mission is very appealing: “Connecting people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty”.

That’s me in La Paz, Bolivia

How Kiva works

Many people have asked me: how is it possible to lend money to so many borrowers and keep tracking them? And yes, this is challenging, (especially with clients who loan small amounts, around $380), but possible! Let me explain how Kiva works, with Bolivian examples to illustrate.

Field partners – microfinance institutions – IMPRO in Bolivia

Kiva works with field partners, which are existing microfinance institutions (MFI’s). These organizations that have expertise in microfinance and a mission to alleviate poverty facilitate Kiva loans on the ground. I am volunteering at the field partner IMPRO in Bolivia. IMPRO is a small non-profit organization that fights poverty by offering loans to small micro-business owners who otherwise would not be able to access credit through the regular banking system due to a lack of guarantees or collateral. 

Disbursing loans to Kiva clients

The loan officers at IMPRO attend their clients from their two offices in La Paz. The client comes to the office with a loan request. One of the loan officers schedules a meeting for the next day at the client’s house for an interview, covering an economic and social analysis.

Marcelina and her husband after the interview with the loan officer,  signing the loan document

One day after the interview the client can collect the loan at the office. On average the clients receive their loan in three days at IMPRO, which is very fast according to Bolivian standards.

IMPRO has different sources to fund the loans and one of these sources is Kiva. Some of their clients can become Kiva clients, e.g. clients who request no more than 1200 dollars and are poor according to the social analysis performed by the loan officer. These clients are asked if they want their story and pictures to be on the Kiva website. IMPRO predisburses the loan and uploads the story about this entrepreneur, his/her picture and the loan details. This is what you see on the Kiva website. When you (and others) choose to lend money to this entrepreneur, the money is sent to IMPRO by Kiva. If lenders do not select this entrepreneur to lend money to, IMPRO needs to use other funds for this entrepreneur. Fortunately this happens rarely.

At the end of the loan

What follows next? The borrower uses the money for its business and repays the loan monthly. IMPRO collects the money and the lenders receive their money back via Kiva. If borrowers pay too late, the lenders also get their money later. That is the risk for the lenders. When the borrower has repaid the whole loan, IMPRO writes an update about this entrepreneur, so that the lenders know how the money was spent. And you can lend the returned money to another entrepreneur again!

IMPRO’s clients Aurelia and her husband use the loan to construct rooms for their family

Haven’t you been lending to Kiva entrepreneurs yet? If you are interested: choose an entrepreneur at (look for an IMPRO loan in Bolivia if you want), register and become a lender! Enjoy the Kiva experience!

Next time I’ll write more about Kiva’s borrowers in Bolivia and their stories.

Entry filed under: Bolivia, IMPRO, KF14 (Kiva Fellows 14th Class). Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , .

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