Posts filed under ‘Tanzania’
Marion Walls | KF19 | Tanzania
I’m on a quest to follow a Kiva loan from lender to borrower! How often have I dreamed of this whilst browsing my loans on a frosty winter weekend in Canada? Now I have an ideal opportunity to do so as the Kiva Fellow in Tanzania, so I’ll take you along for the ride!
My directions are set when a friend emails from Calgary: “I donated to the Jaguar Group. They’re asking for a loan in support of their beauty salon. I chose that one in honor of you – I figure you might want a haircut or a color given you are there for months!” Too true; I’ve been in Tanzania since September and this Kiva fellowship has been rich and rewarding, but also tough, so I’m looking a little ragged… And salons here offer beautifully intricate braids – why not give them a try?
I love the idea of making the personal connection between a Kiva lender in my hometown of Calgary, and a Kiva borrower here in Dar es Salaam! I had the dubious distinction in KF19 Fellows’ class of traveling furthest to my placement, so this will be an opportunity to reel in some of that distance. And what fun to report back to my friend on how his loan is working out here on the ground! I immediately start making arrangements to meet Juliet, the featured borrower of Jaguar Group…
Lender’s city; borrower’s city
You may already be familiar with Calgary – prosperous modern city buoyed by oil wealth; 5th largest metropolitan center in Canada; enviable location at the foot of the Rocky Mountains; renowned for its volunteer spirit; host city of the ’88 Winter Olympics (remember The Jamaican Bobsleigh Team?); 9th largest lender city on Kiva in 2011 (way to go Calgary)! In short: it’s a privileged city with a lot of heart!
What can I tell you about Dar es Salaam? The name conjures up exotic images of centuries old sea-trade, sultry summer evenings, and short ferry rides to magical Zanzibar island!
But the reality of daily life is far from tropical paradise for most of Dar’s 3 – 4 million inhabitants; believe me, this is one grindingly hard city in which to eke out a living… Still, people keep coming, lured by hopes of a better economic future than they face in their hometowns or villages. Dar is one of the fastest growing cities in the world. It’s a statistic with unenviable consequences: Dar’s infrastructure is clearly not keeping pace with the burgeoning population. Unrelenting heat and humidity are exacerbated by almost daily power cuts that mean no fans or air conditioning (in the words of my office-mate: “We are practicing for the fires of heaven!”), and no reliable refrigeration for foodstuff (where do maggots come from anyway?)
The dala-dala (bus) system is extensive and was genuinely well designed at inception – but now it’s inadequate and the overcrowding is epic! Likewise, unremitting traffic on overwhelmed roadways morphs the “5 p.m. rush hour” into the “2 – 8 p.m. standstill”. (Can traffic officers judge precisely when 64 passengers crammed in a sweltering dala with seating for 32 will finally reach breaking point? Only then do they signal us through the intersection!) Admittedly construction is underway to address transportation issues, but I regret the almost imperceptible progress in the 5 months I’ve been here.
Yet, in the face of wretched infrastructure challenges and the fact that formal employment is not keeping pace with population pressures either, the people of Dar find ways to get by – they have to. So the informal economy is bustling and every hot and dusty road is lined with shops and stalls; every opportune space is claimed. (Note to self: “That’s why Kiva loans to entrepreneurs are so relevant in Dar!”)
And if half of all Tanzanians are getting by on $2 per day per Kiva’s country statistics, it’s surely not from want of trying: it’s common to work long hours here in Dar.
No two ways about it – it’s a hardscrabble life here. But there’s a side to this city that defies all expectations: people in Dar (as in all Tanzania, in fact) are extraordinarily friendly, and helpful, and tolerant! I know it sounds cliched, but this is truly friendliness, and willingness to help, and tolerance, on a scale I’ve seldom encountered in my travels on any continent. It occurs to me this is the real key to living in Dar!
The expedition across town
Of course you realize Kiva borrowers don’t work in downtown office towers, but still you might be surprised by the widespread locations of their businesses (such as Juliet’s salon). Greater Dar es Salaam area is extensive, and many Kiva borrowers live and work on the outer fringes – perhaps 50 km away from my base at the main branch of Kiva’s partner MFI, Tujijenge Tanzania.
I had no concept of the stamina it would require before I started visiting borrowers last September! My mind boggles when I consider that loan officers from Tujijenge routinely travel across Dar to attend borrower group meetings every week… (The numerous challenges MFIs such as Tujijenge face in delivering services here in Dar are daunting. That’s why I admire MFIs for working here – where the need for microfinance is great, where it can make a significant impact on the lives of borrowers, but where it is not easy.) The loan officers are all busy as bees so I enlist Rita, the star Kiva Coordinator at Tujijenge, to join me on this visit to Juliet. We set off together, as always.
I use my favorite strategy: Start early in the morning. Take a series of “city-bus” dalas to the furthest point at which bajajis (auto rickshaws, named for the pricipal company that makes them) are available. Cover the final stretch to the borrower by bajaji, because the alternative of switching first to a “mini-bus” dala then risking life and limb on a piki-piki (motorbike taxi) is no fun at all. Persuade the bajaji driver to wait whilst we visit the borrower. Then do the trip in reverse. And hope to get home before dark…
(Rita scolds me for excessive expenditure on bajajis, but I can’t help it: I love everything about them! Bajaji drivers are fearless; they are consummate alternate-route-finders in the face of traffic jams; they are willing to tackle any road. Bajajis can negotiate all terrains successfully, or at least are light enough for this Kiva Fellow to push out of the sand when stuck… The open-air design provides sweet relief from the heat (even if the air I’m breathing is laden with diesel fumes, and bugs impale themselves on my camera lens), and I can choose how many of us are on board. I bet you’d take a bajaji too, if you had the chance!)
On today’s trip to see Juliet, a second bajaji driver dashes up just as we finish negotiating our fare with the first. “Mama,” he calls to Rita, “you gave me my loan at Tujijenge!” It means he has a Kiva loan! “Oh, I wish we could go with you then,” Rita responds. “It’s alright, you can go with him – he’s my friend,” says the Kiva guy, with characteristic Tanzanian friendliness. (What a great coincidence! I told you I love bajajis!)
Meeting the borrower
Turns out my meeting with Juliet is not happening after all… Instead of Juliet, Prisca is waiting for me at the roadside. Prisca is Chairman of Jaguar Group, and she tells me Juliet has bowed out today. Of course I’m disappointed, but I try to imagine myself in Juliet’s position as a borrower. Is she simply too shy? Battling a family or business crisis she’d rather not discuss? Scared because she’s behind on a repayment (even though she’s paid off 5 previous Tujijenge loans successfully)? Unwilling to have nosy neighbors learn from my obvious presence that she has a loan (out of financial privacy concerns, or because they may press for a share of the cash)? Unwilling to have her husband learn she has a loan (and thus jeopardize her personal financial stability)? Or is it something else entirely? I don’t know, but I’d far rather Juliet refuses than indulges me at her own expense – my visit is purely whimsical and not business related. It’s an apt reminder that a borrower’s loan is a significant business contract that is not undertaken lightly; it must be managed and paid back in the context of real-life complexities.
Meeting the borrower (Take 2)
Prisca saves the day by inviting me back to her store. I’m very happy to accept because, after all, the Kiva loan covers Jaguar Group, not Juliet alone. (Group loans are a mainstay of microfinance. You can read about their many benefits in Dar in my earlier Kiva post: Group Loans – Filling a Particular Niche.) Prisca hops aboard our bajaji and we’re off on a roller-coaster ride!
Prisca owns an impressively well-maintained store selling sodas (pop) and beer. There’s a shady seating area too, so Rita, the Bajaji driver, Prisca, and I settle down to enjoy a cold soda (bonus – Prisca has a fridge!) and a chat. I show Prisca her Jaguar Group’s loan on Kiva, and she breaks into a wide smile as she sees herself in the photo! She quickly points out Juliet, as well as Judith who was featured in Jaguar’s previous Kiva loan. She’s somewhat incredulous when I point out my friend from Calgary in the Lender section…
I ask Prisca about herself. She’s married, has a young son and daughter, and has always lived in this area of Dar. Her store used to stock a wide variety of goods but in 2011 thieves broke in and stole pretty much everything, including the scale for weighing goods like rice and dried beans. It was a cruel setback. That’s when Prisca joined Jaguar Group and started taking loans from Tujijenge to try to get back on her feet. Yes, the series of loans have helped restore her business – injections of cash every few months are invaluable in buying bulk stock at cheaper prices, and purchasing items like the fridge to draw customers. Some of the extra profit that is generated helps with household expenses (think school fees) too. But there’s still a way to go… That’s why Prisca has stayed with Jaguar Group, and recently become group Chairman.
Closing the circle
I’ve done what I’ve always dreamed of doing: followed a Kiva loan from lender to borrower! Now I know the people on both sides of the contract, and I’m totally delighted.
I report back to Calgary: “The bajaji ride was one of the best yet! The rest of things didn’t quite go to plan, but still they ended well. I met Prisca, not Juliet. I got a soda, not braids… Prisca was amazed to see you! Her business is coming along, and she says the loan is helping. Here’s the postcard I made you – it was a brilliant day, thank you! M.”
Click here to lend to a Kiva borrower in Dar es Salaam. (Please check back at the start of next month if all Tujijenge Tanzanian loans are currently funded!)
See more of the daily sights I’ve enjoyed in and around Dar in The Illustrated Guide to Cooking Thanksgiving Dinner! (Tanzania Edition). Or see the complete antithesis in On the Road Less Travelled: Kagera Region in Tanzania.
By Kiva Fellows | KF19 | All Over the World
With January 2013 coming to an end, KF19 fellows are either continuing on with KF20 or returning home to various responsibilities and careers. Regardless of the next adventure or destination, one thing is common among all: KF19 fellows have been permanently changed by their placements.
What began as a joint blog post about any person, place, or event during the course of the fellowship that affected our lives, of itself turned into simply the one person who left the most impact. Afterall, Kiva’s mission is to alleviate poverty through connecting people. The fellows of KF19 have witnessed this connection over the course of the last three to four months, and nothing could have prepared us for meeting the people who would touch our lives in various ways.
KF19 presents to you Kiva One, a small collection of stories about human connections, hope, and inspiration.
By Kiva Fellows | KF19 | All Over the World
A Happy Holidays to the Kiva family everywhere! May your celebrations be filled with foods and flavor, smiling faces, natural beauty, light and memories… here are some gifts from around the world courtesy of the Kiva Fellows 19th class:
On the Twelve Days of Christmas my Kiva Fellow gave to me…
Watching Green Turtles hatch on a beach near Mafia Island in Tanzania was magical, and heartbreaking, because they looked so vulnerable. They’re tiny little things – no bigger than the palm of my hand – so the 15m of beach is an epic journey but they scramble forward determinedly despite the obstacles. I was thrilled to see this little guy heading out into the world!
Day 2: Two Washington War Memorials
Christina Reif | Kiva Zip (Washington D.C.) | United States
The Korean War Memorial (left): Nestled between juniper bushes which represent the rugged terrain of Korea, 7ft tall statues of soldiers – wary of a suspected ambush – give the visitor a haunting feel of the a soldier’s reality.
The Vietnam Memorial (right): As I stood taking the picture I overheard the veteran say: there were 18 of us and only 9 came back. It was said matter of factly, a story told many times before, a piece of history that never loses its emotional impact.
Day 3: Three Colorado Microbrews
Rachel Davis | Kiva Zip (Denver) | United States
Here are three beers from three Colorado breweries, enjoy!
Day 4: Four Kuki Carolers
Eileen Flannigan | WSDS-Initiate | India
What are these Kuki’s most excited about this holiday? “The caroling bus!” This tradition only happens every two years because of the cost of renting the buses, which each family in the village (200+) contributes to all year. On Christmas Eve the buses tour all the neighboring villages as a symbol of peace, unity and good old fashion fun! At midnight, the elders go home and the youths visit each house in the village to “offer them a song”, which include tribal songs, classic Christmas songs and even Justin Bieber’s “Mistletoe”.
When I asked them what they would like to say to Kiva lenders around the world, they joyfully said they wanted to “offer a song of thanksgiving”. Through giggles and jolly spirits, these Kiva borrowers sing “Joy to the World”, dressed in their holiday best, which is all weaved from their own hands. They graciously wrap me in these special threads and awake my heart with the “Christmas spirit”.
Day 5: Five Gorgeous Costa Rican Birds
Jane Imai | EDESA and FUNDECOCA | Costa Rica
What speaks of Costa Rica more than a bunch of beautiful, tropical birds? Costa Rica boasts a huge biodiversity when it comes to wildlife, including almost 900 species of birds. Here are some of ones I was able to see while I was here:
- Blue macaw (wild, La Fortuna)
- Scarlet macaws (wild, en route to Monteverde)
- Violet sabrewing (wildlife refuge, La Paz Waterfall Gardens)
- Yellow-naped parrots (free roaming pets known as Lola and Paco, San Jose)
- Keel-billed toucan (wildlife refuge, La Paz Waterfall Gardens)
Day 6: Six Delicious Dishes from Kyrgyzstan
Abhishesh Adhikari | Bai Tushum & Partners | Kyrgyzstan
- Lagman: Noodle dish with beef and pepper
- Mante: Dumplings filled with ground beef and onions
- Turkish Kebab
- Russian style roast duck with apples
- Plov: Fried rice mixed with meat and carrots
- Traditional Kyrgyz soup with meat and potatoes
Day 7: Seven Candles for Día de las Velitas
Rose Larsen | Fundación Mario Santo Domingo (FMSD) | Colombia
Día de las Velitas (Day of the Little Candles) is a holiday in Colombia honoring the Immaculate Conception. Every year, on the 8th of December, at 3AM, Colombians light candles and put them in colorful lanterns outside their homes. This day is also the (unofficial) launch of the Christmas season.
Day 8: Eight Filipino Christmas Lights and Festive Faces
Keith Baillie | Roaming Mindanao | Philippines
Christmas preparations start early in the Philippines. Since November, carols are played on the radio and offices and homes have put up Christmas decorations. Groups of children roam around singing carols, hoping for a handout. Here are some pics of Dipolog’s tree lighting festival – with monsters for kids, sculpted and living angels, fireworks and popular bands.
Maayong Pasco! (Bisayan for Merry Christmas!)
Day 9: Nine Jordanian Herbs
Taline Khansa | Tamweelcom | Jordan
One of the most exciting and lively areas in Jordan is the downtown Amman “Balad” region. The streets are filled with a multitude of elements that stimulate the senses from perfumeries making custom concoctions to falafel hole-in-the-wall restaurants. My favorite places are the small shops selling bulk herbs and spices (for super cheap!), some of which I recognize and others I’ve never heard of. The merchants will often allow you to smell or taste the products and may offer some advice on use and preparation techniques.
The nine bulk herbs in this picture are: Two kinds of sage, Melissa, Rosemary, Artemisia, Rose, Guava Leaves, Marjoram, and Hibiscus… Happy Holidays from the Middle East!
Day 10: Ten Bags-a-Brimming With Honduran Coffee
Wesley Schrock | Roaming Fellow | Honduras
Kiva borrower Miguel, a coffee farmer from Trojes in Honduras, stands in front of a wet processing station. In the lower left-hand corner note his ten bags of pulped, fermented, and dried coffee beans ready for roasting.
Having spent close to three months in India, I must say I have not had one bad meal. The food is always flavorful and delicious. While working at Mahashakti, I have been fortunate to have lunch with the staff every day, prepared by the office caretaker, Radha Kanta, or just Rahda for short. Since many of the staff travel from branch to branch at a regular basis, they stay at the office overnight. Radha prepares meals for the traveling staff and me.
One day I learned to make a traditional Odisha dish – Simba Rai – from the following ingredients (pictured from left to right): Garlic, Turmeric, Radha in action, Ginger, Masala paste and powder, Green Chili, Potatoes, Green beans (Simba), Chili powder, Mustard seeds, Tomatoes, Shallots, and we’re ready to eat!
The smiling faces of twelve bright futures for the children of Kiva borrowers in Togo and Benin!
FROM THE KIVA FELLOWS!
Marion Walls | KF19 | Tanzania
If you prefer the road less traveled, then I have just the place for you: the Kagera region of Tanzania!
You may not have heard of Kagera – even though it’s exceptionally beautiful, and the people here are especially friendly – as it’s not part of the Tanzanian tourist circuit. And that’s precisely what makes it ideal for those of us who prefer to explore places off the beaten track! Kagera is tucked away on the western side of Lake Victoria. The region is bordered by Uganda to the north, and Rwanda and Burundi to the west, and it takes a 20+ hour bus ride (or two flights) to get here from Dar es Salaam. I’ve come here in my capacity as a Fellow to visit Kiva borrower Gration and his project partner Daeni in the town of Muleba, as well as Andy in the town of Ngara. They both obtained Kiva loans earlier this year to purchase solar power products from Kiva’s partner, Barefoot Power. The time I’ve spent with them and their Wata na Nuru (Light for the People) teams, resellers, and solar clients has been truly remarkable. You see, I am here to work!
I’ve long been fascinated by solar power, so I’m thrilled by the opportunity this Kiva fellowship has afforded to see firsthand the impacts and challenges of providing solar lighting in rural Tanzania. And I’m looking forward to sharing these Barefoot Power updates with you when I get back to an area with sufficient internet speed to upload the blogs… Meanwhile, here’s a photo journal of my favorite (non-work) experiences in Kagera over the past two weeks:
1. The dawn chorus of songbirds in a beautiful garden in Bukoba. The birdlife is prolific here; the garden in this video reminds me of the home where I grew up in Zimbabwe; and Bukoba (Tanzania’s second-largest port on Lake Victoria) is a breath of fresh air after my last nine hot and sweaty weeks in Dar es Salaam. What an uplifting way to start the day!
2. Expansive views of Lake Victoria. It’s called Lweru (The Big White) by the Haya people of this area, and as soon as I saw the lake I knew why. This is an area of vast panoramas and glorious open skies! The shoreline of the lake is dotted with granite outcrops, and the surrounding landscape is lush with green grass (good grazing for the heavy-horned cattle in this video!) and trees, thanks to plentiful rainfall and the rich red soil.
3. A frenzy of activity as 450 donated bikes – recently arrived in a container from Switzerland – are reassembled and prepped for sale. Daeni is involved at this bicycle center in remote Nshamba, where youngsters learn the skills of a bicycle fundi (expert). I’m delighted to see the Tanzanian side of this project, because I’m familiar with the donor side of a similar project in my hometown in Canada.
4. Kagera isn’t called the banana capital of Tanzania for nothing… Banana plants grow everywhere! Matoke (plantains, or cooking bananas) are the staple food here, usually eaten with maharage (beans). The bananas we eat start growing from tiny yellow flowers – initially the size of your thumb nail – hidden under the dark reddish bracts of a large inflorescence known as the banana heart.
5. My hilarious bus ride from Muleba to Ngara! It rains. The bus leaks. I am drenched from head to foot! I balance my little daypack on my knee as water pours down upon me for several hours, relieved that my laptop and camera – the tools of my trade these days – are sealed in a waterproof bag. I’m sorry when the kid sitting snugly next to me gets off at his stop; I was grateful for his warmth… And just for the record: I’m beginning to think a ticket agents’ assessment that “it will take 3 hours” is an optimistic way of saying “a long time, maybe even 6 hours”!
6. Wandering for hours along a ridge at Murgwanza that overlooks the Tanzanian border with Rwanda. I’m drawn onward by the tantalizing views from the next rocky outcrop, and the possibility of finding another flame lily swaying in the breeze. The sounds of distant voices, wood chopping, and the occasional cock-crow drift up to me from the valley below, and mingle with the low buzz of insects and melodious bursts of birdsong. The African bush is so alive! Goat herders on the next hillside call mzungu! (the friendly Kiswahili term for foreigner) to catch my attention, and wave. Could I be any happier?
7. The harmonious singing voices of a church congregation in Murgwanza stop me in my tracks as I’m passing by. (The picture quality in this video is poor, so just close your eyes and listen, and you’ll hear birds trilling joyfully too!)
8. A vibrant market operates under cover of huge white UNHCR tents that have been repurposed in downtown Ngara. The tents are remnants of the refugee crisis in Kagera that was caused by the Rwanda genocide in 1994. It’s impossible for me to reconcile the idea of such horror with the normal daily life and tranquility I see around me now.
9. My 9-hour bus ride through Karagwe region. Since there are no direct buses for the next 3 days, I’m advised to take a bus from Ngara to Karagwe (it’ll take 3 hours!), from where I can get onward transport to Bukoba. I arrive at the bus stand before dawn to get a window seat. The bus fills rapidly (and I do mean fills…), and we set off close to schedule but lose time as we inch our way through the mist and up the steep hills. The man wedged in next to me buys water at our first stop and downs more pills than I’ve ever seen in one dose; I wonder sadly if he’s one of the many people here infected with HIV/AIDS. (I’ve visited a sewing class at one organization that cares for 1800 orphans, and met a worker from another that cares for 3700. The numbers overwhelm me.)
Then the bus halts at a barrier and a man with an automatic rifle, (I recognize it as an AK47; I grew up during the war in Zimbabwe), climbs in next to the driver. My neighbor explains this is our escort, but I’m a bit disconcerted and text a message to Andy in Ngara in case this all ends badly… He replies that an armed escort on this route is normal… I’m still feeling pensive when suddenly there’s great excitement on the bus: Twiga, twiga! Someone’s seen giraffe, and we all scan the bush eagerly for a glimpse! I snap a couple of photos, and pass my camera around. My fellow passengers laugh happily at our good fortune, and my mood lightens! I can face the rest of this 9-hour bus journey with equanimity now.
10. Young girls are delighted by their new dresses for Christmas! I think the dressmaker is equally pleased. Entrepreneurship is visible everywhere I go – this woman set up shop in front of her house, in the midst of a banana plantation. And she’s doing a roaring trade as the festive season approaches!
And finally: The unlikely Kiva connection. Yesterday I chatted with a charming woman at Bukoba airport as we waited in vain for our flight – the runway too muddy for the incoming plane to land. We met again today, and I showed my new friend the Tanzanian content on Kiva website. Imagine my surprise and delight when we scrolled through the last Update I posted about Tanzania, and she exclaimed “I know her! That woman is an excellent baker!” Who’d have thought there would be a connection way out here in Kagera? It’s a small world, thanks to Kiva!
Barefoot Power loans in Tanzania also went to Martin in Dodoma, and Clive in Moshi. That’s were my travels as a Kiva Fellow take me next! No Barefoot Power loans in Tanzania are currently fundraising on Kiva, but each month you can find loans posted by Tujijenge Tanzania.
Marion Walls | KF19 | Tanzania
I’d like to celebrate Thanksgiving with you, the Kiva community! I’d love to cook dinner for us to share but this is the thing: I’m in Tanzania right now. (I’m a Kiva Fellow, serving with Tujijenge and Barefoot Power.) So I’m enlisting your help with getting the food to the table. It’ll be easy! I’ve chosen a familiar Thanksgiving menu:
Turkey with Pan Gravy
Nut Loaf (*vegetarian option)
Coffee or Tea
And just to be certain we end up with the same meal as each other, I’ve provided step-by-step instructions (with full-color illustrations from Tanzania!) for you to follow. You can’t go wrong… So let’s get cooking!
2. Cook the Bird till the juices run clear, and the skin is nicely browned. (Turkeys proved elusive – here’s rooster from Bagamoyo instead…)
3. Pick, peel, and roast nuts for the nut loaf. Cashews are abundant here, but feel free to use any nuts growing locally near you.
I hope you’ve cooked up a feast!
Happy Thanksgiving from Tanzania!
Marion has written many pages of operating instructions for polymer manufacturing facilities… You too can apply to be a Kiva Fellow for a totally different experience!
By Marion Walls, KF19, Tanzania
There’s a buzz about Group Loans here in Dar Es Salaam! And now that I see them in action every day, I’m sold too! I’m volunteering as a Kiva Fellow at Tujijenge Tanzania where all Kiva loans are Group loans, so I’ve learned considerably more about them in the last six weeks. It’s become clear why Group Loans are a mainstay of microcredit: they fill a particular niche for borrowers.
Let me show you what I’ve learned…
Borrower groups at Tujijenge are made up of around fourteen members who know each other, though there may be as many as twenty or as few as eight. Groups choose their own names – and names run the gamut from the practical “Mt Rungwe”, to the motivational “Breakthrough”, and confident “Top Class”. Their names are just the first indication that each group is unique… It’s been immediately apparent when I’ve met them that each group has it’s own personality: some are shy and quiet, others cheerful and full of energy!
Group members don’t necessarily operate the same type of business as each other. One may have a fruit stall in a market;
another may own a general store;
while a third raises (inquisitive) ducks!
Group members don’t all borrow the same amount as one another either – each member’s loan amount is dictated by both the amount they requested and their personal loan history at Tujijenge.
I’ve participated in a number of Group loan disbursements at Tujijenge’s main branch. I’ve been delighted to meet members on their tenth loan cycle, borrowing Tsh 1,800,000 (about US$ 1125), because it confirms for me that the loans provide genuine benefit. I’ve been equally happy to meet members who’ve only recently joined a group and are on their first loan cycle, borrowing Tsh 80,000 (about US$ 50). Wait a minute…. surely that can’t be right? $ 50! I’ve never seen an Individual loan for $ 50 on Kiva. And this is precisely the point: Group Loans are special. They enable borrowers to start borrowing.
This thrills me – I’m here, seeing borrowers stepping onto the first rung of a ladder that could lead upward out of poverty! New group members are borrowing $ 50 to boost their fledgling business, or to make a lump sum payment on an item such as school fees. The main reason these borrowers join a Group is that members guarantee each others’ repayments, so small loan amounts are accessible to those who don’t yet have physical collateral. (Tied to this fact, too, is that members don’t need spousal approval for participation in a Group loan – an important consideration in a culture where gender equality has not been the traditional norm.)
Group loans also provide a good environment for nurturing new borrowers. Established group members can help new borrowers learn the skills and discipline associated with repaying a loan, all within the safety-net of the group guarantee. And, I was fascinated to learn, a Group is a self-regulating mechanism against the scourge of over-indebtedness. Group members actively discourage each other from taking out simultaneous loans from multiple organizations because they know they’ll personally be on the hook for paying back the Group loan if a fellow member cannot.
Then there are the intangible benefits to a Group loan that I’ve discovered while attending Group meetings!
Groups meet on a weekly or bi-weekly basis in a location convenient to them (but that entails several hours’ journey on a hot and supremely overcrowded dalla dalla for the Tujijenge loan officer and Kiva Fellow…), to register repayments with their loan officer. At one meeting, I ask the Group Chairman if hers is a tough job and she sighs: “Yes, following up with members who haven’t repaid is the hardest part.” I ask her why she’s persevered in the role for five years, and she answers without hesitation: “Leadership!” She’s referring to leadership within her group, as well as within her community. It’s her very practical way of bettering the community in which she lives.
Likewise, the young Treasurer is demonstrating her accounting skills and acting as a role model to new borrowers within the group, whilst also developing her status outside it.
And another group member, (an irrepressible character who offered me a two-week home stay to get my Swahili vocabulary up to scratch!), has the opportunity for the group interaction she so obviously thrives on. It’s a big part of the reason she was a founding member of the group five years ago…
But it’s not just idle chit chat at a Group meeting; the support members gain from one another is so highly valued that many well-established borrowers choose to stay in a Group long after they are eligible for “graduation” to an Individual loan. In this case – and in a nice paradox – the Group loan enables borrowers to access some of the largest loan amounts on offer. So chalk up one more winning attribute: Group loans empower the borrowers that started with them to keep moving upward!
If you’d like to loan to Tujijenge’s Group borrowers, you can do so here.
As we say in Tanzania: Karibu sana! You are very welcome!