Posts filed under ‘EDESA’

Twelve Days of Christmas from Kiva Fellows

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…

Day 1: A Turtle Heading Out to Sea!
Marion Walls | Tujijenge and Barefoot Power | Tanzania

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


  1. Lagman: Noodle dish with beef and pepper
  2. Mante: Dumplings filled with ground beef and onions
  3. Turkish Kebab
  4. Russian style roast duck with apples
  5. Plov: Fried rice mixed with meat and carrots
  6. 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.

Day 11: Eleven Indian Ingredients and Spices
Irene Fung | People’s Forum and Mahashakti Foundation | India


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!

Day 12: Twelve Bright African Futures
Holly Sarkissian | Alidé in Benin and WAGES in Togo


The smiling faces of twelve bright futures for the children of Kiva borrowers in Togo and Benin!




20 December 2012 at 08:00

The Ticos Who Touched My Heart

just some of the lovely Ticos I met during my fellowship

just some of the lovely Ticos I met during my fellowship

It never ceases to amaze me how you can connect with people who are completely different from you. Maybe you don’t speak the same first language. Maybe you grew up on opposite sides of the world, or you were born in different decades. But somehow, despite all your differences—and perhaps against all odds—you find commonalities. And what’s more, sometimes you realize that below the surface, maybe you’re not actually all that different after all.

Kiva’s mission is to connect people through lending. That happens every day through its online lending platform, But as Kiva Fellows, we have the opportunity to carry out this mission in the field. Sometimes we get to meet with borrowers, but all of us get to connect with the local people where we work and live. We learn about who they are and how they live, and we share a little bit about ourselves as well. And when you find yourself having a good laugh with them, it’s a pretty amazing thing.

the FUNDECOCA crew

the FUNDECOCA crew

So, the three months of my fellowship are drawing to a close. It’s hard not to get sentimental when I think about leaving behind this beautiful country and the warm, generous people who welcomed me into their homes, their families, and their lives. Some took the time to get to know me, others took the time to share their stories, and others still simply made me feel at home, wherever I was. Many went out of their way to make sure I had a fantastic experience here. Pictured in this blog entry are just some of the wonderful Ticos that I met in Costa Rica.

the folks at EDESA

the folks at EDESA

My time here has been full of adventures, sightseeing, and some notable firsts. Among those have been:

First time seeing toucans. They are too cute for words!

First time riding on a moto, or motorbike, ever. (I think I’ve gained some street cred in Uganda).

First time seeing dressage. One weekend, I chanced upon a big street party that was complete with cowboys and horses getting their horse ballet on. I thought that was pretty fortuitous, since I had recently learned what this sport was all about (courtesy of Stephen Colbert).

First time eating rice and beans for 90 days straight. I’m talking about the famous typical Costa Rican dish, gallo pinto, which is pretty much what everyone here eats every day for breakfast—and sometimes lunch and dinner, too. OK, so maybe I didn’t eat it for all 90 days, but I tell you it was pretty darn close. It’s a good thing I like rice and beans!

First time trying sopilote (vulture meat). Ooops, wait! That was chicken and a couple of colleagues trying to trick me.

First time watching the entire Twilight saga. Oh yes I did! (It made for a fun bonding experience, OK?)

Alejandra and Bryan (and their wonderful families in Pital)

Alejandra and Bryan (and their families in Pital)

But in any new experience, it’s always the people you meet who make all the difference. While I love to travel and see new places, I also love the very different experience of living abroad, because that’s when you really get to know the locals.

People asked me why I wanted to come to Costa Rica for my fellowship. In fact, it’s somewhere I’ve wanted to go for a long time. I have always been intrigued by this country that constitutionally abolished its army in 1949, thus diverting resources towards health and education for the general population. I was curious about the nation with a long history of ecotourism that today remains one of the world’s leaders in environmental protection. I wanted to meet the people who lived in the country that was ranked #1 in the 2012 Happy Planet Index.

Don Manuel and his full house

home sweet home – Manuel and his full house

So here are some things I’ve learned:

Ticos are proud of their country and have a strong sense of national identity. The expression Pura Vida (Pure Life) says it all. It’s something of a national motto here, but it’s more than just words; it’s a way of life. It’s used here in greetings, as an expression of gratitude or satisfaction, and also to describe something or someone who’s generally pretty awesome.

Ticos love to toot their horn. I’m not talking about national pride anymore. I’m talking about the constant beep-beep you will hear as you walk along any road or highway. The pitos (horns) are how Tico drivers communicate, and the beeps can mean very different things. Here’s a little guide to help you decipher the various meanings, should you be traveling to Costa Rica anytime soon:

Beep! Hello!

Beep! Hellooooo there, baby.

Beep! Coming through!

Beep beep! You go first!

Beep! Thanks dude!

Beeeeeeeep! I’m stuck in traffic and mildly annoyed.

Beep! I’m bored and tooting my horn is fun!


Ticos love their coffee. As they rightly should: Costa Rican coffee is really good! Even for someone who’s more of a tea-aholic, two coffee breaks a day will get you hooked in no time. If you search long and hard, though, you will find some tea aficionados, and you might even chance upon a tea store if you’re lucky.

Ticos are incredibly tolerant of rain. I’ve never seen so much rain in my life! It’s true I’ve been here during the rainy season, but I never thought this kind of rain was possible—where a heavy downpour can last 5 hours, or sometimes even two days. But nobody complains. (The cold is another thing, but it’s totally fair game to complain when it’s 12oC and windy, given that buildings are not insulated here.)

Costa Rica is largely rural. Like the diminutive Tico suggests, things here are small-scale. Even the bigger city centres are more like large towns. Many Ticos live in rural areas or have some connection to rural life. For example, quite a few people who work in the city commute some distance from a more rural area, or their family might own a finca (a property in the countryside).

And many Ticos and tourists alike are averse to San José, whose metropolitan area has some 2.3 million people. While it may not be the world’s most attractive city, the Ticos’ dislike for it stems more from the fact that it is a city. I am going to make a bold statement: I like San José. That may be attributed to the great people I met while I was living here, though.

traipsing the country with Carlos and his family

traipsing the country with Carlos and his family

Ticos are quite devout. Costa Rica is fairly homogenous and its population is made up of 70% Catholics and 14% Evangelical Christians. It was interesting trying to explain that my family’s roots are Buddhist, since Buddhism, like many other religions, has had limited exposure in Costa Rica.

It was also interesting being introduced as Canadian to new Ticos. Their eyes always said the same thing: You can’t fool me. A further explanation of my parents’ Japanese origins brought a sort of relief to their faces and often facilitated the conversation that ensued. I was, without a doubt, something of an anomaly to them, although that humoured me more than anything.

The word china means many things in Costa Rica, as it does in other Spanish speaking countries. Hmm… seems like not a lot of thought has gone into the nuances of its meanings. For example:

  • China = the country
  • china = the language
  • china = a Chinese person
  • china = any other Asian-looking person

In addition, there is a type of flower called china and porcelain plates are also called china. To add some variety, I tried to make up my own word, chinesa, to describe the language, but I was corrected. Por favor. It’s china.

That being said, China (the country) has become Costa Rica’s most important ally after the US, as evidenced by the generous gift they sent last year. (A symbol of its former relationship with Taiwan can also be found firmly planted in northern Costa Rica.) So maybe it’s good that, as long as they’re going to use one generic word to capture all these meanings, that the word be china.

Romano and Hannia

Romano and Hannia

Ticos work hard to get ahead, but that’s not always easy. They could use a break. That’s why lending through Kiva’s partners like EDESA and FUNDECOCA can go a long way. (Stay tuned for FUNDECOCA on—they’re a new partner so their partner page is forthcoming!)

These MFIs are doing a great job of providing opportunities to people in rural areas, where the poverty is often striking, but urban poverty is rampant as well, and sometimes microfinance can overlook this. One of my colleagues pointed out that a person is probably better off being poor in a rural area of Costa Rica, because at least then they can still produce their own food. In the city, on the other hand, if you don’t have money you can’t survive.

Recently, I had the opportunity to get to know a lady here in a similar situation. While she had a job in the city that gave her enough income to support her family, she was in a position where she could not access credit from the regular banks. As such, her daughters would never have the chance to pursue a better education so that they might someday be able to get ahead. As we chatted, I realized that rarely had I met someone so wise and open-minded. She had a lively curiosity, and she had come to grips with her situation in life with laughter and a positive attitude. She left me with a feeling of admiration mixed with heartache.

Rosi and her family

Rosi and her family

Over the past 10 years, I’ve had the fortune to live and work in 7 different countries, and travel to countless others. Throughout those experiences, I’ve met friends who come from over 70 countries, and I’ve come to understand so much about the world thanks to them. Ticos, I’ve learned, are totally pura vida. And hopefully, they’ve learned something about me, too, so that the next time they meet someone really different from them, the differences won’t be as striking as the similarities are.

13 December 2012 at 21:04

Dear Lenders, Thank You from Costa Rica

thank you, Kiva

Trekking to La Danta

Two weeks ago I headed out for the last of my borrower verifications with EDESA, the microfinance institution where I’ve been working. All week long I anticipated my trip to Golfito, which is way down in southern Costa Rica, in the Puntarenas province. I asked my colleagues about our portfolio there and peppered them with questions like: ‘Have you ever been to Golfito? How far is it from the Panamanian border? I heard it’s raining hard in Golfito now, do you think it will clear up by the time we go?’  (more…)

9 November 2012 at 09:35

Hard Workers and the Spirit of Entreprise

En route to San Carlos for some BVs

Visiting borrowers in rural Costa Rica

By all accounts, borrower verifications (BVs) have been a highlight for all Kiva Fellows who have had them on their work plans. I started mine last week, but I have to admit I went into them feeling apprehensive—especially since not all borrowers fully understand how Kiva works or how Kiva is even related to them. (more…)

24 October 2012 at 10:15 1 comment

Getting from Point A to Point B in Costa Rica

mother and baby monkey feeding

mother and baby howler monkeys feeding in Parque Nacional Las Baulas

Costa Rica so far has been nothing short of breathtaking. Those of you who’ve been here will remember its lush green landscapes, abundant tropical fruit, sunny 25oC days that constitute its ‘winter,’ magnificent animals and birds that we in Canada only know from pictures, and a sense of environmental protection that seems to be ingrained in the nation’s conscience. (more…)

5 October 2012 at 08:43

Planting Trees with Schoolchildren – Social Responsibility in Microfinance

By John Murphy, KF12, Costa Rica

*Update: additional video just added – interview with the ECC’s vice president Vicky.

Social responsibility means taking care of the “triple bottom line” – people, planet, profit. Check in for pictures and a video about one Communal Credit Company’s social responsibility efforts.

Continue Reading 18 August 2010 at 06:30 4 comments


By John Murphy, KF12, Costa Rica

Around us mountains soared as we left San José at dawn…

Check in for a recap of our recent visit to a group of indigenous Costa Rican Kiva borrowers. Pictures and video included.

Continue Reading 13 August 2010 at 06:00 2 comments

Women and Microfinance in Light of Machismo in Costa Rica

Alana Solimeo, KF9, Costa Rica

 I’m not here to cry wolf.  I know that the subordination of women exists to much more oppressive degrees around the world.  

 I am also aware that my ability to identify phenomena here as ‘machismo’ has everything to do with my perspective, that of a female born into a world where I have virtually no boundaries, where glass ceilings are slowly being pushed further and further away from my upper limits by the women that precede me.  But I am here to tell my stories, and I’ll do so cautiously.  This one is about my personal experience with machismo and the notions I’ve gathered spending my time with women and families in rural Costa Rica.   (more…)

5 December 2009 at 08:00 7 comments

I might be falling for microfinance.

Alana Solimeo, KF9, Costa Rica

I realized after letting the excitement of Kiva, Costa Rica, and research topics (exhibited in previous post Rice, Beans and an Inspired Hypothesis) settle that I might want to take a step back.  The thing is I hit the ground running here, thanks to the great work of my predecessor Kiva Fellow, the fact that EDESA really is on top of their game, and the enthusiastic charge with which I like to begin things that earned me my nickname Eager Beaver.

As ready as I think I am to lay it down as to why I think EDESA’s model is so successful it will be prudent to spend a blog post proving that it is indeed, successful.  So here I give myself one shot to make you a believer, and then maybe we can jump on Kiva Fellow Suzy’s “What if microfinance really does work?” bandwagon! (more…)

4 November 2009 at 11:00 7 comments

Rice, Beans, and an Inspired Hypothesis

By Alana Solimeo, KF9 Costa Rica

After six months of subsisting on rice and beans while living in Boulder, Colorado, in order to save scrupulously in hopes of being invited to the Kiva Fellows Program, where do I stand?  In San Jose, Costa Rica…eating nothing but rice and beans.  I am finally here and don’t let that intro fool you; I’m exactly where I want to be.  Three days into the fellowship and I already have my two favorite things planned: a weekend beach trip and a research topic! (No, I’m not a student just a serial nerd.)
I have been placed with EDESA, an MFI that was formed as a response to an increasing demand for loans to the Community Credit Enterprises (ECCs) that are all throughout Costa Rica, primarily in under-targeted rural areas.  ECCs are legal businesses, member/shareholder/borrower-owned and run that, after their lending capacity expands past that which can be funded by the initial “IPO,” seek more formal funding.  EDESA loops back into the story rather seamlessly at this point.  After the ECCs have been well-established, trained, experienced, demonstrated success and increased capacity, EDESA becomes a source of funding and the ECC becomes a member/shareholder/borrower of EDESA!
Needless to say, their microfinance model is unique, and it’s setting off my dorky, academic-research-paper-writing inclinations like mad.  Young like Kiva, with a far reach, a unique model, and great ambitions, EDESA is a slight anomaly. This makes me wonder, if Kiva’s explanations for low cost delivery method are technology and partnerships, what’s EDESA’s explanation?

Tempted at this point to present my hypothesis, I think I’ll give myself a full week on the job first.  Check back in to the Kiva Fellows Blog to see how my perspective on success at the MFI level develops and evolves.  Join EDESA’s lending team to stay up to date with my journeys visiting ECCs and their borrowers throughout Costa Rica.

For more detailed descriptions of both EDESA and the ECC’s microfinance models please refer back to Kiva Fellow Megan Montgomery’s blog from her time here in San Jose.

10 October 2009 at 09:04 12 comments

Meet Kiva’s Field Partner: EDESA

By Megan Tatman Montgomery, KF8 Costa Rica

Microfinance involves a tremendous amount of legwork.  While Kiva is all about facilitating connections between borrowers and lenders, it’s important to recognize the hard work of those in the field that make sure your money gets to microentrepreneurs that need it the most.  Here is a brief glimpse into EDESA, Kiva’s field partner in Costa Rica, with a little more about how the organization works and the people that are working hard to alleviate poverty in Costa Rica.

If you’d like to learn more about microfinance in Costa Rica, join the EDESA lending team, Pura Vida Costa Rica.  Also, be sure to visit this link regularly to see any currently fundraising loans for Costa Rican microentrepreneurs.


Megan Tatman Montgomery is wrapping up her fourth and, sadly, final placement as a Kiva Fellow.  Prior to EDESA, she served at Friendship Bridge and FAPE in Guatemala and ADEPHCA in Nicaragua.  Feel free to email her at with any questions, comments, or requests for future blog posts.

12 July 2009 at 08:38 4 comments

The Power of Education and Collaboration

As I described in a previous blog post, EDESA (Kiva’s field partner in Costa Rica) works with a network of Community Credit Enterprises (ECCs by their Spanish acronym).  To reiterate a bit, the ECCs are small, grassroots microfinance organizations formed by rural community members.  FINCA Costa Rica provides extensive training in these communities to teach members how to work together to create and run a profitable business that provides financial services among other things.  I recently visited one of the oldest and largest ECCs, La Asociación de Productores de El Sauce (The Association of Producers of El Sauce – El Sauce for short). 

This ECC is a phenomenal example of what people can do with just a little money, a little training, and a lot of motivation.  The El Sauce ECC started about 17 years ago with only 13 members and no money.  They quickly grew to 23 members and Finca provided them with their first loan: just over US$1,100 to invest in farming projects across all the members.  Over the years they have grown steadily and currently have 136 members holding 531 shares and have given a total of 2,062 microloans. 

The beauty of the El Sauce ECC, however, is not just the manner in which it has provided financial services to the community, but how it has used the foundation of the ECC to expand in many ways.  (more…)

19 June 2009 at 16:35 1 comment

An Innovative & Effective Microfinance Model

Intro to EDESA and their network of Empresas de Crédito Comunal

Kiva’s field partner in Costa Rica, EDESA, provides credit services to a network of “Empresas de Crédito Comunal” (Community Credit Enterprises), or ECCs,  established by FINCA Costa Rica.  The ECCs are small, grassroots microfinance organizations formed by rural community members.  The objective of each ECC is to provide financial services to individuals within the community for the development of economic activities that allow them to move out of poverty.  FINCA Costa Rica works to establish ECCs to serve as the financial engines of the neediest communities across the country.  To form the ECCs, FINCA provides comprehensive training to rural community members that includes financial and business elements and culminates in the formal establishment of the ECC as a legal autonomous business.

The capital of each ECC is generated by the investment of its members through the sale and purchase of shares in the organization.  These purchases provide the loan capital that the ECCs then use to issue loans to their members and to invest in other community development projects.  As shareholders, individuals in the community become owners of the ECC, earning dividends on the shares when the business is profitable and fully determining the rules, policies, and projects of the organization. Not only do ECCs provide financial benefits, but many of them also work with other organizations in sectors such as health, education, and sports and often provide other programs such as investment education for children and youth. While each ECC governs its own policies, the average price for a share across the network of ECCs is 2,000 Costa Rica Colones (approximately US$3.50) so becoming a partial owner of the business is fairly accessible, even in the poorest of communities.

Over the years, as the ECCs grew and their members’ businesses expanded, some members began requesting loans that exceeded the ECCs’ lending capacity.  The ECCs started looking for other sources of financing. EDESA was established by FINCA Costa Rica, the ECCs and some individual investors in February of 2005 in response to the ECCs’ growing need for external financing.  EDESA serves as the ECCs’ national financing institution, with the mission of bringing credit services to the ECCs.  EDESA is a firm operated just like an ECC, but on a national level.  The ECCs are the shareholders and receive profits (dividends) if positive financial results are achieved.

This model of community members becoming partial owners of the ECCs and the ECCs being partial owners of EDESA has proven remarkably effective.  Not only does the sale and purchase of shares at the grassroots level facilitate the capital needed to run these organizations, but the fact that the borrowers are receiving loans from an enterprise they partially own creates an additional vested interest in paying back the loans and ensuring future success of the organizations.  As evidence of how effective this strategy is, EDESA maintained a zero percent (0%) delinquency rate in its first four years of lending!  In addition to being effective in terms of loan repayment, this model is also extremely empowering to the individuals and the communities investing in the ECCs and EDESA.  By being participants and owners of these organizations, the beneficiaries also educate themselves on financial and business issues and shape how the businesses grow and what they do within their own communities.

offices of one of the oldest and most developed ECCs, El Sauce

offices of one of the oldest and most developed ECCs, El Sauce

ECC El Sauce sign

ECC El Sauce sign

ECC El Sauce even has internet and bike rental services

ECC El Sauce even has internet and bike rental services




To lend to EDESA’s borrowers, please click here.

Megan Tatman Montgomery is in her fourth and final placement as a Kiva Fellow.  Prior to EDESA, she served at Friendship Bridge and FAPE in Guatemala and ADEPHCA in Nicaragua.  Please feel free to contact her at with any questions, comments, or requests for future blog posts.


15 May 2009 at 15:50 2 comments


I’ve just arrived at my fourth and final placement as a Kiva Fellow.  Less than two weeks ago I was wrapping up work with ADEPHCA in Nicaragua and, following a week of whirlwind travel through southwestern Nicaragua, I arrived to start my first week with EDESA in Costa Rica.  Based on initial impressions, ADEPHCA and EDESA have very little in common other than the fact they are both identified by somewhat confusing acronyms and are both quite small organizations in the world of microfinance.  But that is where the similarities end.  ADEPHCA is based out of Bluefields, Nicaragua: a town of less than 50,000 where the tallest building in town is the 3-story discotheque and many people haven’t even heard of Diet Coke.  EDESA is based out of San Jose, Costa Rica, a bustling metropolis of over 1.5 million people that feels more like the United States than any other place I’ve ever been in Latin America.  ADEPHCA’s clients live in tin and clapboard houses that may or may not have a real floor.  The EDESA clients I’ve seen so far live in cement houses and may even have tile covering the concrete floors.

The working poor in Bluefields have very few options in terms of starting up microenterprises.  Accordingly, nearly all of ADEPHCA’s loans are invested in daily consumption items such as rice, beans, and soap for little stores or in the purchase of clothing for resale.  That’s it.  The kinds of businesses EDESA’s clients are investing in run the gamut from agriculture and livestock, to fishing and restaurants, to sewing, bakeries, traditional handicrafts and more.  One community they work with used to be dominated by coffee cultivation.  Several years back coffee prices dropped dramatically, and many in the community used microloans to invest in other agricultural endeavors, a bakery, a tailor shop, etc.

While I’ve only been in Costa Rica for a week, my initial visits into the field (the rural areas where microfinance is most utilized) have shown that the levels of poverty and challenges to development are markedly less severe than in Nicaragua.  To some extent, this is to be expected.  Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere, while Costa Rica is among the most developed countries in all of Latin America.  Costa Ricans take great pride in the fact that their country has not been torn apart by civil war and government corruption like much of the rest of Central America.  While other countries were embroiled in internal conflict, Costa Rica was able to focus on things like infrastructure and education.  In addition to investments such as this, Costa Rica is blessed with fertile lands conducive to agricultural production of all kinds and incredible biodiversity that attracts tourists from all over the world.  They are so far ahead of Nicaragua in almost every way that it’s hard to believe that these tiny Central American countries share a border.

As a longer-term Kiva Fellow, it has been extremely valuable to see microfinance in action in a variety of regions and contexts.  The thing I am most excited about regarding my time in Costa Rica is getting a feel for how levels of poverty here really compare with elsewhere I’ve been in Latin America.  Are the poorest of the poor in Costa Rica still way ahead of Nicaragua’s poor?  Or is there still extreme poverty in some parts of the country?  Because Nicaragua and Costa Rica share a border, and because Costa Rica has so many more work opportunities than Nicaragua, nearly one million Nicaraguans have immigrated to Costa Rica.  One million Nicaraguans in a country with just over four million Costa Ricans.  It’s my understanding that Nicaraguans actually comprise much of the poorest of the poor in Costa Rica.  But is their quality of life in Costa Rica still better than their life in Nicaragua?  I look forward to seeing just how well Costa Rica has done in terms of development and poverty alleviation.  In such a small country, have all corners benefited from the growth and prosperity I see in San Jose and nearby rural communities?  Or have some still been left way behind?  Hopefully I’ll be able to provide some answers in the coming months.

An EDESA borrower's chive fields in beautiful Costa Rica

An EDESA borrower's chive fields in beautiful Costa Rica

Click here to see currently fundraising loans for EDESA’s clients and start supporting microentrepreneurs in Costa Rica today!


Megan Tatman Montgomery is in her fourth and final placement as a Kiva Fellow.  Prior to EDESA, she served at Friendship Bridge and FAPE in Guatemala and ADEPHCA in Nicaragua.  Please feel free to contact her at with any questions, comments, or requests for future blog posts.

1 May 2009 at 15:52

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