Author Archive

Should Kiva Lenders take on currency exchange risk?

By Rosalind Piggot, KF10, Tajikistan

Until about a month ago, I didn’t realize that currency exchange loss protection was important to Kiva Lenders.  That was until Yelena (KF11, Azerbaijan) raised the issue, pointing out a discussion on kivafriends.  Many lenders don’t lend via Field Partners that share currency risk.  Why should Kiva Lenders take on the risk of currency loss when Kiva’s Field Partners can protect against it in other ways? (more…)

10 July 2010 at 00:02 11 comments

Women in the workforce

Tashbubu spinning wool into yarn, photo by Rob Cavese

By Rosalind Piggot, KF10, Tajikistan

“Apparently women entrepreneurs are able to raise funds more quickly than men in the world of Kiva,” wrote Peter Tashjian in his recent post.

Peter confirmed what I had long suspected. Through lender pages and meetings with other lenders, it seemed that Kiva’s women entrepreneurs had more of a following than men.

With this in mind, I thought I’d add a post on women in the Tajik workforce. In my experience, many Tajik women do conform to traditional gender roles. But, at the same time, (more…)

3 July 2010 at 04:21 4 comments

How useful is microfinance? (Migration v Microfinance)

by Rosalind Piggot, KF10, Tajikistan

Many Kiva Entrepreneurs I have met took up business to earn money to support their families. Some previous work didn’t pay enough.

But in Tajikistan, micro-entrepreneurship has big competition when it comes to supporting the family. The rival is employment in Russia. As part of the Soviet Union for over 60 years, many Tajiks speak Russian. They can enter Russia without a special visa. With limited job opportunities and lower wages in Tajikistan, Russia is the obvious way forward for a lot of Tajiks.

Russian migration in the culture

Without reading the statistics, you know Russia is important just by the popular culture. For example:

  • Beeline, a mobile phone operator, airs commercials where a small boy asks “When will daddy call?” as his mother tucks him in. Then the phone rings – you see daddy calling with images of Russia in the background. Everyone is happy.

    Beeline ad in Kulob, Tajikistan

  • The music video for “Ota ma Russia daay” (Dad’s in Russia) by Firdovs Alivod.  Although the tune is cheerful, the words and images aren’t. Dad goes to Russia – maybe for 3 years. Fatherless boy gets beaten up. Mother cries and runs out of money. Dad passes out in the Russian snow after too much vodka.

The stats

Father drinking vodka in Russia. Scene from the music video for Ota ma Russia daay by Firdovs Alivod

The statistics are nonetheless impressive.  Tajikistan’s population is about 7 million. Estimates of the number of Tajiks living in Russia vary from 600,000 to 1.5 million, with a recent Irex paper putting the number at 800,000 (or roughly 10% of the population) for 2009.   Remittances (from Russia and other countries) exceeded  50% of Tajikistan’s GDP in 2008, with Russia as the largest source of remittances (as per this World Bank report).

Almost every family I have met here has at least 1 family member studying or working in Russia. Some go for several years. Some go and settle there. Some go seasonally, maybe staying for 6 months and then coming home for 6 months.

In Russia, you can make triple what you can in Tajikistan. And it is addictive. During the economic crisis, many Tajiks working in Russia lost their jobs and returned to Tajikistan. But, even if they could find work in Tajikistan, it was difficult to adjust to the reduced salary.

The gamble

But, Russia is a gamble. I’ve asked a lot of people about the impact of Russian migration on Tajikistan. Many of the migrants are men, and there two scenarios:

  • “Good men.” Good men go to Russia, make a lot of money, and send it home regularly. They come home and often times build or buy a house.

Kiva Entrepreneurs and Russia

Before becoming a Kiva Fellow, I had a soft spot for Tajikistan’s male borrowers. These men were struggling to make a decent living at home in Tajikistan. I thought their relationships with family weren’t strained by months of separation.  By lending to them, I thought I was helping the whole family by enabling them to stay home.

But my recent borrower verification has shown me that Kiva Entrepreneurs are not “immune” to Russia.

While visiting borrowers, I met one entrepreneur whose wife had left for Russia and decided not to come home.

I was also scheduled to meet another Kiva Entrepreneur, who actually had gone to Russia. I was meant to meet him when he returned home from his rice fields. However, the entrepreneur’s wife called Kiva’s Field Partner to say he had gone to Russia.

As I talked with his wife, I saw the story wasn’t as simple as a rice farmer trying to grow the business. Both he and his wife were actually history teachers. However, to earn enough to support the family, he also farmed and his wife sold clothes in the market part-time. Their oldest son had recently gone to Russia and gotten a job. When he called home saying “I found a job for dad too”, there was no question of staying home when so much more could be earned in Russia.*

Russia rubles paying Tajik loans

Although at first glance this situation might seem unusual, this additional income will probably make repayment much easier for the family. In microfinance, multiple income streams are often used to repay a loan.

The relation between migration and loan repayments was also explained to me by a branch director from one of  Kiva’s Field Partners. He mentioned that, during the worst of the financial crisis, only families with Russian migrants could afford to make the monthly payments. Migration income is not considered when the Field Partner assesses the potential client’s debt capacity. However, when it comes down to actually making payments, it can make a huge difference.

For more on remittances to countries where Kiva Entrepreneurs live, see blogs about Kyrgyzstan, Samoa and Nicaragua.

If you would like to support entrepreneurs in Tajikistan, you can lend, join the team Supporters of Tajikistan, or learn more about Tajikistan from Kiva Fellow blog posts

*The first question Kiva’s Field Partner and I asked was “how is the loan going to get repaid”. Well, in the meantime, this client’s brother will tend the rice and his wife will pay back the loan.

28 June 2010 at 20:29 7 comments

The many faces of the Tajik celebration

By Rosalind Piggot, KF10, Tajikistan

At 7 am the other morning, I was deafened by rhythmic Tajik dance tunes.  After squirming around on my floor mattress to try to wake up fully, I opened the window.  On the street 4 stories below, one young man was dressed in a suit holding flowers.  Thirty odd neighbors were standing around watching, dancing as the songs blasted out.

zang-e akhir

The extended family of celebrations

This celebration, zang-e akhir, is just the latest in a number of celebrations I have been introduced to. (more…)

11 June 2010 at 04:30 3 comments

The end of farming as you know it

By Rosalind Piggot, KF10, Tajikistan

I always assumed that farmers requesting loans on Kiva were carrying on a traditional, family activity.  Farming was a profession passed from father to son, from mother to daughter. The same practices were maintained for generations.  I didn’t ask any more questions.

I recently discovered that things are a little different in Tajikistan. (more…)

5 May 2010 at 06:31 6 comments

Mavluda’s poem and why you should get decked out in shiny hats

By Rosalind Piggot, KF10, Tajikistan

As I sat down at the living room table, former Kiva Entrepreneur Mavluda Muhidinova hurried to show me her work.  5 plate-shaped pieces of black material were already on the table: work in progress.  Mavluda had been hand-stitching traditional Tajik men’s hats, which are part of her business as a hat maker.

Mavluda shows me the first hat she ever made

I was amazed when Mavluda pulled out the first hat she ever made.  She had kept this green crochet hat since the early 1960s.  “I came up with the idea for this hat myself.  Here, men only wear the black hats.”

Tajik men's hats and ladies' wedding hats

“I am one of the few people in this city (Isfara) that actually makes the hats.   (more…)

2 May 2010 at 04:54 5 comments

Should you lend via Kiva’s for-profit Field Partners?

By Rosalind Piggot, KF10, Tajikistan

Following the recent New York Times article questioning the interest rates charged in microfinance, I looked back at recent blogs by Kiva Fellows about interest rates and sustainability. In comments on those blogs and on Kiva’s lender team sites, a lot of people were asking: “Do I want to lend via a for-profit institution?” and similar questions. (more…)

21 April 2010 at 01:35 9 comments

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