Posts filed under ‘Kiva Team’

Giving Thanks for New Opportunities in Benin and Togo

The Kouroumlakiwe Group in Togo received a loan from WAGES to fund their farming activities

The Kouroumlakiwe Group in Togo received a special credit loan from WAGES. This loan does not have to repaid until after their crop has been harvested.

This Thanksgiving I may not be eating turkey and pumpkin pie, but I have many reasons to be thankful. I am grateful to work with two Kiva Partners in Togo and Benin who go above and beyond to provide services to poor clients who previously had no access to formal credit.

Reaching the Poorest of the Poor

In December, 2011, Kiva launched social performance badges as a way to measure and maximize the good created by Kiva partners.  Alidé, a Kiva partner based in Cotonou, Benin, has already earned 5 of the 7 Kiva Social Performance badges, making it one of Kiva’s most socially conscious partners.  For partners to merit Kiva’s “Anti-Poverty focus” badge, they must target poorer populations despite additional costs and difficulties. This week I saw firsthand how Alidé credit agents are driving long distances, in the pouring rain, to do just that.

Visiting Ze, Benin’s Poorest Community 

The Partnership with Alidé is a BIG DEAL for the Ze Community.

Monday morning, it was time to make my last visit to verify client information for Kiva. I headed off to Alidé’s most distant agency in Allada, Benin (a two and a half hour moto ride away from Alidé’s main office in Cotonou). Once I arrived in Allada, I set off with loan officer Aubin to visit the group Titomagba.

During the hour long ride there, Aubin explained to me that the group is located very far from the office in Ze, the poorest community in Benin. The community has no banks (the closest is in Allada) making it very challenging to access financial services.

Aubin uses the red moto in the background of this photo to visit Alidé’s clients. He works with clients in Ze, one of Benin’s most isolated and under-served regions.

When we arrived, we were greeted by the 16 members of the Titomagba group along with various children, family members, friends, including the Chef of the community.

After everyone introduced themselves and I explained why this Yovo (white person in Fon, the local language) was visiting their neighborhood, I began my line of questions to verify information for Kiva.  I asked the group members to rate their satisfaction with their loan on a scale of 1 to 10. One indicates that they are not at all satisfied and ten indicates that they are extremely satisfied. Aubin translated this question into Fon and each group member’s response included the word “DIX” or “OWO” (TEN in French and Fon, respectively).

The Chef explained that before Alidé started working in Ze in April, there had been no way to access loans with affordable interest rates. The women in the Titomagba group are the first members of the community to have the opportunity to receive an affordable loan.

The group members used their Kiva loans to buy food products such as bananas, rice, and palm oil.  The women prepare and re-sell these items for a higher price, increasing their income and earning potential. The group members have paid back 71% of their loan and plan to begin a second loan immediately after the first has been repaid. The women of the Titomagba Group hope to use their increased income to contribute the expenses of their family and provide food and schooling for their children.

Some of the children of the Titomagba Group.

Improving the Lives of Farmers in Togo 

Back in Togo, Kiva’s Partner Women and Associations for Gain both Economic and Social (WAGES) has been increasing its offerings of high-impact loans tailored to support under-served farmers. These agriculture loans offer a flexible repayment cycle which allows farmers to start repaying their loans AFTER their crops have been harvested and they have begun generating income from the sale of their produce. This initial grace period permits farmers to focus on the production of their harvests instead of worrying about their loan repayments.

Adjoa received a loan from WAGES in April to buy fertilizer and seeds.

Learn more about Adjoa and the lives of other farmers in Togo here.

THANK YOU from the Kiva Family! 

This Thanksgiving I am grateful for the Kiva lenders who are helping to alleviate poverty in Togo, Benin, and all over the world.

Give a Kiva Borrower a reason to be THANKFUL:

Click here to make a loan through Alidé in Benin

Or help a borrower through WAGES in Togo

From Kiva, WAGES, Alidé and our family of borrowers, I thank you for your continued support.

On est ensemble!

(We are together)

Holly Sarkissian (KF19) is a Kiva Fellow, working with WAGES in Lomé, Togo and Alidé in Cotonou, Benin.

22 November 2012 at 06:57

My Week with Premal – Kiva’s President visiting borrowers and partners in Nicaragua

Luan Nio | KF18 | Nicaragua

He is named Global Young Leader by the World Economic Forum and is on the Fortune’s 40 under 40 list for the most influential people under the age of 40.
It is easy to become impressed, maybe intimidated by a person that holds such accolades. But Premal Shah, president of Kiva, is the last person to become intimidated by. However, impressed? Yes, highly. And he was coming my way to Nicaragua.

Premal Shah’s lender page on Kiva. Note that he made over 300 loans.

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24 September 2012 at 20:46 2 comments

Savings Accounts make me way too excited!

Team Building Exercises

Obviously, as a Kiva Fellow, I’m always excited to hear about how our field partners offer savings to their clients.  While I was unaware of the agenda of this last weekend’s UGAFODE-wide training, I was pleasantly surprised to be a part of personal Savings Account utilization and client mobilization!  The whole weekend was not only necessary but also fun and interesting.  While the first day focused on team building with trust games and group coordination exercises, the second day was designated to Savings Account mobilization.

This savings aspect of UGAFODE has only recently been a possibility and after much hard work and restructuring of the organization.  This field partner only became a Micro Deposit Taking Institution (MDI) on September 23, 2011, but they are moving quickly to utilize this capacity in the products they offer to their clients.

Now, back to the training we received on Savings Mobilization.  I was impressed that the first half of the training was dedicated to training all ~135 employees in personal savings practices and recommendations.  The reason being, “How can you tell a client to save when you yourself don’t know how?”  Although, some of the tips were quite basic they were good reminders of how and why we save.

All employees from Credit Officers to Senior Management in Training!

Next, we split into groups to discuss the different forms of savings that clients utilize and why they do this.  I knew that micro business clients use often unorthodox forms of savings, but this really opened my eyes to other barriers that institutions have to encourage and educate people toward savings.  Although, saving in a bank is not always the best option, many times it is a far better option then the alternative.  In Uganda, with an economic history of bank closures and untrustworthy institutions, many people are hesitant to trust their money with an organization.  One of the facilitators shared a story that he had a group of woman that he was helping open savings accounts for.  When he filled out the paper work and took their cumulatively substantial amount of $6,000 he brought back passbooks (small ledgers recording account activity) that were worth $0.25.  The women were confused and angry that they gave him all that money and they only got a cheap book to replace it.

I have learned that this is the kind of context that many of the rural branches of UGAFODE deal with on a daily basis. When improving the financial literacy of low-income clients it is not telling them that saving is a good habit, but rather how will they directly benefit from savings. The credit officers’ job is to not only to disburse loans and savings accounts, but to educate clients on the benefits of savings.  What they call customer sensitization was heavily emphasized in training, to not only explain the benefits, but also the step-by-step deposit and withdrawal terms of any given account.

Don, a credit officer with UGAFODE talks business with a new Kiva client, James. Let’s get these people some savings accounts!

I was somewhat unaware of the marketing aspect of savings accounts, but now totally understand that savings accounts not only benefit the borrower with safe and secure savings but also with interest.  And while this is a great social mission for UGAFODE, it makes sense for them to increase their clients’ savings portfolio, so that they have access to this cheaper form of capital that they can then lend to other borrowers.

I love these win-win situations for all parties involved!  Now, I’m currently compiling a report to propose to UGAFODE to give back to their Kiva borrowers by opening a fixed deposit savings account for 3-6 months that would be given to Kiva clients who make all their repayments on time.  Therefore, only clients with good repayment histories would receive a reward by a portion of the interest charged by UGAFODE deposited into this account at the loan-end date. The fixed term of 3-6 months would inherently teach clients the benefits of savings and hopefully encourage continued utilization.

Please share with me any ideas or recommendations for this!

Jon is a second-term Kiva fellow volunteering in Kampala, Uganda with UGAFODE. From the desolate plains of Mongolia to the lush jungle and mountains of Uganda, Jon has been experiencing much of the amazing world of Micofinance. If you like what he has said about UGAFODE, make a loan to any of their clients here

11 August 2012 at 09:00 4 comments

Alighting, Educating and Uplifting – Kiva Zip Trustees in Action

By Patrick Seeton & Muskan Chopra | KF18 | Kenya

Visiting Kiva borrowers is always a special part of a Fellow’s experience.  Fellows are the lucky ones who actually go out and meet the people that Kiva capital helps.  In some cases we even get to meet the borrowers who we’ve lent money to directly – see Luan & Olivia’s terrific blog on True Connectedness!

As we ramp up Kiva Zip and assess our progress, we have had the additional pleasure of meeting the dynamic people and organizations that have been endorsed as trustees.  These folks are from diverse backgrounds – community leaders, teachers, business owners and church leaders.  They have a vested interest in seeing their communities and constituents succeed and by identifying and endorsing “creditworthy” borrowers from their programs and they are critical to the success and scaleability of Kiva Zip.

Recently Muskan Chopra and Patrick Seeton had the exciting task of meeting three of the more far flung trustees in the Zip program – community leader Rowland Amulyoto, businessman and entrepreneur Haron Wachira and conservation farming advocate Finn Davey and his field officer in Nyahururu, Hussein Wendo.

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4 August 2012 at 08:00 1 comment

Nairobi – Where Development, Social Enterprise and Kiva come to Party

By Patrick Seeton | KF18 | Kenya

I’ve been in Nairobi for just over two weeks (and more importantly three weekends!) and what has struck me most, beyond the friendliness of the people and the ever-present dust and diesel fumes, is the social scene and its social enterprise scenesters.

Kenya has undergone a transformation in recent years – the removal of long time president Daniel Moi in 2002 and subsequent democratic election of current president Mwai Kibaki was the start in a chain of events that has led to a resurgence in Kenya’s standing in the region.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki’s inauguration, Uhuru Park, Nairobi, 2002 (Looks like it was a pretty good party)

Recent Fellows’ blogs about Kenyans’ sense of hope (see Muskan’s “Trough” Blog) and the region’s innate entrepreneurial spirit (see Julie’s “How to Make it” Blog) demonstrate how these attributes, combined with political freedom and technological advances, have made Nairobi an emergent hub for development agencies and fledgling social enterprises alike.

These development professionals, social entrepreneurs and Kiva are all here Nairobi trying to figure out what the region’s future could look like…

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12 July 2012 at 07:00 6 comments

Real World – Kiva: Nine Strangers Living and Learning Together

By Ward Lassoe / KF18 / Armenia

“This is the true story of seven strangers, picked to live in a house, work together and have their lives taped, to find out what happens when people stop being polite… and start getting real.”      

— Introduction to “The Real World” on MTV

We were actually nine strangers. We did live and work together, but somehow we never stopped being polite. And it was definitely real.

Welcome of the Kiva edition of “The Real World.”

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20 June 2012 at 09:54 14 comments

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (the more things change, the more they stay the same)

Michael Slattery | KF17 | Togo

Is Togo much different from what the 1969 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica has to say?  Agriculture still dominates the economy, people still haul in the fishing nets by hand on the beach in the morning, pagnes are still sold in the markets, and animism is still practiced — though not as much as before.  Pictures don’t define a nation, so read on.

Dusk in Lomé is a special time when people leave their offices and head home for the evening. On street corners and along avenues, evening vendors lay out their wares. Charcoal fires are stoked in old oil drums or large metal basins to cook chicken and beef brochettes — thin skewers of heavily spiced meats — tempting passersby. In these moments when the roar of traffic momentarily silences, a faint muezzin’s call can be heard, reflecting Islam’s lesser presence in these parts.

Sitting on a patio along the boulevard circulaire — the ring of road that girds the city center — I can both see the ocean and admire the rush of speeding motorcycle taxis as they carry their passengers to and from destinations unknown. In the time I have been here, nearly all road and storm sewer work in the core has been finished: the paving stones that make up the sidewalks are falling into place, and even young palm trees have been planted along the medians. The sense of well-being that comes from well-paved roads and proper sidewalks is palpable. And so Lomé la Belle moves further away from the denizen’s local moniker of Lomé la Poubelle (the garbage bin). (more…)

29 May 2012 at 11:52 5 comments

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