Posts filed under ‘Tajikistan’

The View from the Roof of the World: Life in Tajikistan

By Benjamin Schelling, KF17, Tajikistan

Ismoil Somoni Peak, formerly Peak Communism

Tucked against well-known neighbors China and Afghanistan, Tajikistan remains virtually anonymous to much of the Western world. Most today know scarcely more about Central Asia’s smallest country than when the first British and Russian spies of “The Great Game” traversed the Pamir mountains in the mid to late 1800s.

Not that Tajikistan lacks history. Alexander the Great, Tamerlane and Genghis Khan all built empire here. Multiple routes on the Silk Road ran through the country. And the Pamirs, locally known as Bam-i-Dunya or “Roof of the World,” played host to one of the great geopolitical contests of the 19th century. (more…)

Continue Reading 1 May 2012 at 09:00 13 comments

What’s next for KF16? (Part 1)

Compiled by Laurie Young, KF16, Indonesia

I know! We can’t believe it either! Our Kiva Fellowships, as the 16th class, have come to an end. So what’s in store for us once we return to our homes? Or perhaps, stay in the field for another fellowship? Read on for the next chapter in the lives of some of the 16th Class of Kiva Fellows Alumni.

Continue Reading 2 January 2012 at 08:00 3 comments

60 Tips from Kiva Fellows

Compiled by Kate Bennett, KF16 Peru

The sixteenth class of Kiva Fellows has all but left the field- but we’re by no means done talking about our experiences. We’ve collectively spent 422 weeks in the field (just over 8 years!) and worked an estimated 16,650 hours at Kiva field partners around the world.  Needless to say, we’ve got a lot of opinions about how to use this time wisely.

Now, we’re no experts in living or working abroad (though we sure do like it), but we have some nuggets of wisdom to offer up for those of you transitioning into a life abroad or beginning your next Kiva Fellowship. Stick by these tips, and you can’t go wrong. (And for more hints and tips, check out 33 Tips from Kiva Fellows (written November 2009) or 45 More Tips from Kiva Fellows in South America.) Enjoy!

Continue Reading 30 December 2011 at 04:00 6 comments

Update from the Field: Adapting for Borrowers by Borrowers, Microinsurance +SKFL

Compiled by Jim Burke, KF16, Nicaragua

A Warm Welcome! Manana offers the best from her garden. By DJ Forza, Georgia

This week’s Fellows Blog focuses on adaptability: Adapting microinsurance to poor households in Indonesia, an MFI in Turkey adapts to the needs of women entrepreneurs, a multifaceted borrower in Nepal adapts to market pressures, and a Kiva Fellow adapts to changing expectations. In a continuation of The Stuff Kiva Fellows Like series we hear how different fellows have adapted to their lives abroad by ‘crashing parties’ and ‘going to the Bazaar’. We hear about how practitioners are adapting finance and microinsurance products to their borrowers. Equally nimble we hear from a few borrowers and how they have expertly adapted to market pressures and changing circumstance. Microfinance is a dynamic industry by nature and like DJ or Binu or Maya Enterprise for Micro Finance, ensuring success means staying flexible and welcoming new opportunities born out of challenges. (more…)

28 November 2011 at 01:01 5 comments

Stuff Kiva Fellows Like #10-17

Compiled by Jim Burke, KF16, Nicaragua

We are Kiva Fellows. This is the stuff we like. Here is an insider (often critical, or satirical but always true!) view of what it means to be a Kiva Fellow and promote access to financial services around the world. From party crashing to bazaars to street food, these are the things we like and thrive on. Check out Stuff Kiva Fellows Like (SKFL) #1-9!

#10 Street Food

Mariela Cedeño, KF16, Cochabamba, Bolivia

I’m not really sure why, but there is something inherently appealing to a Kiva Fellow’s being about food that is prepared, cooked, and sold on the streets. Perhaps it’s the dubiously hygienic food preparation, the alternative cooking apparatus used to bring food to fire, or it’s ready availability and our relative laziness…wait, no, it’s actually our need to literally ‘taste’ the local culture. In our fits of street food deliriousness we are open and ready to taste all that our surroundings have to offer, however, we often find that the local fare may not quietly find a home in our stomachs. Thankfully, before leaving to our local assignments, our travel nurses reminded us that in times of intestinal woe, Cipro and other like antibiotics will be our best friend. They sometimes are, but because we are well versed in the dangers of overusing antibiotics and are haunted by nightmares of creating giant super bacteria that start kidnapping local women and children, we use them sparingly and wisely. (more…)

25 November 2011 at 16:00 6 comments

Update from the Field: Expanding the Reach of Microfinance, Downsizing Development + Why We Kiva

Compiled by Kathrin Gerner, KF16, Rwanda

This week, you have no fewer than 14 new articles to choose from on the Kiva fellows blog: Let the fellows take you along on borrower visits across the world. Learn how Kiva field partners expand the reach of microfinance in Rwanda, fill the microfinance donut hole in Sierra Leone and improve social performance in Uganda. Find out what poverty is like in urban Tajikistan and rural Burkina Faso. Get inspired by one of the creative ways to bring renewable energy to the developing world in the form of a soccer ball. And finally, watch a video of “Why We Kiva” to get a glimpse of why Kiva fellows jump at the opportunity to be thrown half way around the world to work with Kiva’s many local field partners.

Continue Reading 31 October 2011 at 02:49 5 comments

This Is Urban Poverty in Tajikistan

By Chris Paci, KF16, Tajikistan

Soviet-era apartment block in Tajikistan

“Be careful,” called Rahim from somewhere above my head. It was pitch black, and I felt for each stair with the toe of my shoe, slowly working my way up to where Rahim stood. Shards of fallen concrete snapped beneath my boots.

Rahim was standing in front of a door and fiddling with his keys. “Sorry, we have no lightbulbs in the stairwell. It’s difficult to see,” he apologized, just as the lock snapped open with a crack that echoed down the dark stairwell. Without so much as a pause, he swept me inside his apartment and sat me down on a sagging armchair with a stained floral pattern. “Please, make yourself comfortable! I’ll be right back with some tea,” he said, disappearing abruptly.

Continue Reading 27 October 2011 at 14:00 16 comments

Update from the Field: Loan Use, Agriculture Loans + Stuff Kiva Fellows Like

Compiled by Kathrin Gerner, KF16, Rwanda

This week on the Kiva fellows blog: Hop on a poda-poda or an okada to try out an adventurous way to get around Sierra Leone. Find out why loan use in Tajikistan is not as straightforward as you may think. Learn how the principle of “trust but verify” is applied in Georgia. Explore the clever efforts of an Ecuadorian Kiva partner to craft an agricultural loan product that is appropriate to farmers’ needs. Welcome Kiva’s new field partner, VisionFund Cambodia. Learn how village banking works in Ecuador.

Continue Reading 10 October 2011 at 02:00 8 comments

Loan Use: Not As Simple As You Might Think

By Chris Paci, KF16, Tajikistan

For many Kiva lenders, loan use – or what an entrepreneur plans to do with the funds he or she receives – is their most important consideration in deciding which entrepreneurs to support. On the Kiva website, it’s the single most prominent piece of information supplied about any featured entrepreneur. As it turns out, though, predicting what borrowers will use their loans to do is more complicated than you’d think.

Continue Reading 3 October 2011 at 16:00 9 comments

Beginning of a Tajikistan Journey

By Chris Paci, KF16, Tajikistan

Valiant 4x4]

Seeing a disheveled American with two huge suitcases standing by the side of the road, the taxi driver cuts the wheel, bombs horizontally across four (blessedly empty) lanes of traffic, and screeches to a stop in front of me. I open the passenger door and stuck my head inside. “To the Tsementzavod bus station, how much?” I rap out. He names a price. I counter. After three rounds of this ritual bargaining, we settle on a number, and I hop in.

Continue Reading 8 September 2011 at 08:00 11 comments

It’s Always Sunny in Tajikistan

By Carrie Piesen, KF13, Tajikistan

As part of the application process for the Kiva Fellowship, prospective fellows have to submit a ranking of countries where they hope to be sent for their placement. I’m sure Thailand, Samoa, and Costa Rica are lovely at this time of year, but there was little doubt in my mind as to which would be first on my list – what could be better than winter in Tajikistan?

Continue Reading 10 December 2010 at 13:51 2 comments

Debating the profit motive in microfinance

By Donald Hart, KF12, Tajikistan

Microfinance has been featured extensively in the media recently – even making it on to an episode of The Simpsons, where a cartoon version of Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank, provides financial advice to Lisa. The real live version of Mr. Yunus also made headlines in an exchange at the Clinton Global Initiative with Vikram Akula, CEO of SKS, an Indian microfinance bank that raised over $350 million through an initial public offering (IPO) this past July. The IPO fueled a debate within the microfinance community on governance structures, and whether microfinance organizations should pursue profit and/or be publicly traded.

Despite the ideological debate over the profit motive, it is my view that success will be determined by who borrowers choose to do business with, and how an organization chooses to balance their social mission with the profit motive.

Continue Reading 2 November 2010 at 08:26 13 comments

Starting Women-owned Businesses

By Donald Hart, KF12, Tajikistan

In 2008, IMON International, one of Kiva’s Field Partners in Tajikistan, conducted a community survey to identify potential opportunities to improve their product line. They found that quite a few women were interested in starting businesses, but so far had not been able to secure funding. With the help of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the National Association of Business Women in Tajikistan (NABWT), they launched the Women’s Start-up program in late 2009.

Click below to see photos and hear the story of my visit to two of these women’s start-up businesses.

Continue Reading 27 October 2010 at 14:04 4 comments

Infrastructure War: How Trying to Fix a Problem Can Sometimes Become a Fight

by Sam Kendall KF12 Tajikistan

Currently there is a conflict brewing in Central Asia. The conflict is between a few different countries, and the cause is infrastructure. We’ve learned how infrastructure can raise costs of microfinance. Learn how it can raise costs of regular items, and the cost of nationalistic tendencies.

(with videos)

Continue Reading 21 October 2010 at 02:15 2 comments

Cotton: Blessed Curse or Cursed Blessing

by Sam Kendall KF12 Tajikistan
(with pictures)

I never thought my Kiva Fellowship would deal so much with cotton, without actually dealing with cotton. Today one thing Central Asia, especially Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, are known for is cotton, if they are known at all (All make top 10 list of cotton exporters). In Tajikistan it is everywhere, with pictures of cotton and even statues of cotton, the state symbol also has cotton on it. Cotton has driven much of the history of Central Asia and Tajikistan. So one begins to wonder: how did cotton become such an important crop, and what has been its consequences?

Continue Reading 12 October 2010 at 02:15 1 comment

Banking on the go: innovative repayment options in Tajikistan

By Donald Hart, KF12, Tajikistan

We often hear about the high transaction costs faced by Microfinance Institutions (MFIs), who are making small loans in challenging economic environments.

It’s also important to remember that when borrowers obtain a loan from an MFI, they face many of these same costs; including taking time out from work for meetings, and traveling rough roads to an MFI’s branch office to apply for a loan or make a repayment. IMON International, one of Kiva’s Field Partners in Tajikistan, has recently introduced an innovative new way of making payments that can help alleviate these latent costs to borrowers.

Continue Reading 4 October 2010 at 04:04 4 comments

“We Started Education.”

by Sam Kendall KF 12, Tajikistan

She looked at me very sternly, as if I had said something wrong, I knew that her students must be very obedient, because she was arguably the most intimidating teacher I had met in a post-soviet country, and I had met a lot of them. Rosa, as she wanted me to call her, even though it wasn’t her name, was a teacher in secondary school.

“You must, um, understand Sam,” she started out as if trying to figure out how to word her sentences correctly in English, “Tajikistan today, is not all of the land of Tajiks. Samarkand and Bukhara are also part of the wider land of Tajiks.”

“Ok Rosa,” I began to respond, “but what does that have to do with my question on education.”

She looked at me with her withering look again, I realized that it wasn’t mean, it was just impatient. I had become one of her students, and one who seemed to have a knack for talking back.

Continue Reading 26 September 2010 at 02:50 4 comments

Poverty and Paroxysm: an International Day of Peace Post

The first news reports on BBC, CNN, and AP said that the bomb went off at 8:10 in the morning. I swear though, that I heard it at 8:04. Its not every day that a young American not serving in the armed forces hears an explosion as they gets ready for work, but for Kiva Fellows, this isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

Continue Reading 21 September 2010 at 01:37 7 comments

Happy Indepen-dance

By Donald Hart, KF12, Tajikistan

What do Hillary Clinton, Dmitry Medvedev, Islam Karimov, and 2 Kiva Fellows have in common?

We all took time last week to wish Tajikistan a happy 19th anniversary of Independence.

BONUS VIDEO: fireworks in front of a national monument and finding oneself in the center of an impromptu dance circle.

Continue Reading 14 September 2010 at 04:15 8 comments

Mergers in Microfinance: What to do with Tajikistans 100+ MFI’s

By Sam Kendall
There are 100 or more different microfinance institutions in Tajikistan, a country slightly smaller than Wisconson. Is this an over-saturation of the market? -Maybe.
But if it is, what can be even done with over-saturation, a problem few thought would ever befall microfinance?
Read about the newest problem effecting today’s microfinance community and the growing solution to it.

Continue Reading 3 September 2010 at 02:00 8 comments

A Sweet Recipe: How You Can Help an Economy

by Sam Kendall KF 12 Tajikistan

As this is food month on Kiva, I’ve decided to talk about how food relates to you, microfinance, and an entire countries economy. And as an added bonus, I give you a recipe based on fresh fruits and vegetables I’ve found in the market “Tajik Summer on Rice”

Continue Reading 23 August 2010 at 02:00 6 comments

What “Welcome to Tajikistan” really means

By Donald Hart, KF12, Tajikistan

Central Asia is famous for its hospitality. As I set out for my fellowship in Tajikistan with minimal (scratch that, zero) Russian or Tajik language ability – I had little else to rely on.

My first week as a guest of Farrukh, one of the staff at Kiva’s Field Partner, Humo, has meant the following:

Continue Reading 12 August 2010 at 04:30 16 comments

“The Stork and the Golden Grain”

by Sam Kendall KF 12 Tajikistan

I recently began work at MDO Arvand, formerly MicroInvest. Arvand has created an interesting way to explain Microfinance to its clients and their children. Using a Tajik Fairy Tale it has written a small book that it hands out to its clients titled “The Stork and the Golden Grain”.

Continue Reading 9 August 2010 at 01:10 7 comments

Is that even a real country? Q and A about Tajikistan

By Sam Kendall KF12 Tajikistan

As one of the new Kiva Fellows who will be in the field by the end of month, I bubble with excitement about going to a foreign country and helping Kiva. I tell anyone who asks that I am going to Tajikistan, usually with a big smile, or at least excitement in my voice.

People usually look at me with the squinty eyed pondering look, then I get asked a lot of the same questions. I try to answer some of them here for those who are curious.

Continue Reading 20 July 2010 at 10:50 11 comments

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

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