The Bare Necessities

8 April 2011 at 01:45 6 comments

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.”


Visitors to Cambodia’s countryside know that they face a multitude of potential health risks that vaccinations can help to prevent, some of which include malaria, hepatitis A and B, and typhoid. While vaccines are relatively easy to obtain in the developed world, the lack of vaccine coverage in countries such as Cambodia are startling. According to a USAID survey, Cambodia’s full vaccination coverage is less than 40%. Indeed, it is an eye-opening experience when a borrower says that what they would like most in the world is proper health.

A remote Takeo village occupied by predominantly ethnic Vietnamese-Cambodians is also home to Pha:  Kiva borrower, pig breeder, and rice wine maker.

Borrower in Takeo province, Cambodia

Pha’s husband is a teacher at the local school. They raised four children, one of whom is now a school teacher like his father. Pha did not request a Kiva loan to start a business—rather, she used her loan to pay for vaccinations for her family.

“My business is well. I know that [vaccinations] are important, and I need to care for my family.”


Rural Cambodians see no humor in the word “toilet.” More than a Western luxury, the commode is a life-changing addition that paves the way for proper sanitation and prevention of infectious diseases. Yet so many in Cambodia and around the world do not have access to one.

In fact, more people in the world have cell phones than access to a toilet, according to In Kampong Chhnang, Sum used his loan to install a toilet for his family’s use. It comes as no surprise that oftentimes, rural provinces are a germophobe’s biggest nightmare, with pollutants and infectants abound.

A rural Cambodian borrower and his children

With his loan from Kiva, Sum can improve his family’s health and well-being, and potentially prevent some of the many diseases that his village and communities around the world are prone to.

Stephanie Sibal is a Kiva Fellow based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia working with MAXIMA Mikroheranhvatho Co. Ltd, a Kiva Field Partner.

Make a loan to entrepreneurs like these on Kiva, or join MAXIMA’s lending team to lend to MAXIMA borrowers.

Stephanie’s Previous Posts:

Special Update from the Field: Beaches, Safaris + Cambodian Glamour Shots

Piece by Piece: The Garment Worker’s Loan

Celebrating Women Around the World!

Microfinance Marketing 101: The Loan Officer

Mangoes and Motos: Visits to the Field in Cambodia

Entry filed under: blogsherpa, Cambodia, East Asia & the Pacific (EAP), KF14 (Kiva Fellows 14th Class), MAXIMA Mikroheranhvatho Co., Ltd.. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

A day in the life of a rural loan officer Update from the Field: Cute Pigs, New Toilets + Everything is Relative


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