Posts tagged ‘Client Voice’

Is Microfinance a boon or bane..? My learnings from the field

With mixed emotions not knowing what to expect from the fellowship I headed to India… A sense of excitement for being a part of the launch, a sense of happiness for being able to be with my family after a long time and a disappointment for not having as much excitement as others who are traveling to new countries. But eight weeks in to the fellowship has completely changed this.

I always wondered how far microcredit actually helped alleviate the lives of the poor especially after the SKS Microfinance crisis in Andhra Pradesh. There has been a lot of criticism that this industry was full of profit motivated rather than socially focused players. So, I always wanted to understand what would make micro finance perform stronger socially.The reason I say my fellowship was rewarding is because I had all these questions answered through my eyes and ears in the process of being Kiva’s Eyes and Ears on field.

Two weeks back I was juggling between profile posting, field visits, group photos, and field staff training. Amidst this time crunch phase, a visit to the local weekly market came as liberation. It was so colorful and vibrant may be because 40% of the vendors were women selling vegetables, bangles, local snacks, cooking utensils   etc…

Bangles of all sizes and colors that must be worn to complete your Indian attire…
Locally popular snacks pakora(onions and batter of gram flour mixed and fried in oil) and wada(lentil doughnut)

The aromas(including of stinking dry fish), haggling noises and  people around did not irritate me somehow.Seemed like a perfect recipe for a break. Every 2 shops that we passed by, the branch manager would introduce me to some woman  telling me that she is their client and started/grew their business with a financial support from them.

Dry fish and Red chilli added a different flavor to the market…

It is when I met people like Lalitha and Bijaya Lakshmi that I started wondering about their livelihood in the absence of microfinance. Would they have had help from traditional banks?

Lalitha going back home happily after her day’s sale

Could Lalitha have started a vegetable business without the intervention of Mahashakti; one of Kiva’s      Indian partners with a strong social focus…? Lalitha was selling vegetables in the market. She started selling vegetables with the help of a micro loan to supplement her husband’s income who works as a daily labor in the paddy fields. The additional income has actually helped them move from a mud house to a concrete house. In the photo she holds some drumsticks(moringa) which she saved from her merchandise to cook for her daughter who loves the curry.

As I walked through the stretch of canvas of colors and aromas , I met several other women who were happy to have received a loan and felt empowered through their business.

Me all smiles with Bijayalakshmi spreading her energy around…

Or would Bijayalakshmi and her husband have been able to sustain their livelihood  without financial support in the form of microcredit..? I went to meet her as we were going to post her loan on Kiva. She spends almost 10hrs a day making local snacks and her husband sells them the next day. They are both in their fifties and have no sons to take care of them in their old age as any other parent who has crossed 50s would have been in India. When I asked her about being on internet, she answered with her infectious smile and energy “I am happy to let people know how hard we are working. This may motivate others to work hard and create opportunities for themselves”.  I had nothing to say but be amazed.

But all microfinance clients do not have a success story to share. If it were so, we would not have had those suicides in Andhra Pradesh and MFI industry in India would not be in such a crisis today. So, I thought to myself may be all of microfinance is not good or all of it is not bad. I was reminded of the “half glass” paradox.

Back in my room in the evening I was wondering how MFIs should evolve their model to not let the critics undervalue microfinance by half its potential. It finally dawns on me that MFIs should look for holistic solutions to poverty and provide innovative services by understanding the needs of the customers like any other industry and not just focus on micro credit.

I learnt from my interactions here that more than 40% of a household annual income is spent for health and it plays a major role in repaying the loan. So, health should be one major area of focus for the MFIs. Some of the MFIs in India like one of Kiva’s Indian partners Mahashakti have now started providing health based initiatives like micro insurance, credit support for safe drinking water, water and sanitation loans etc… As one of Mahashakti’s management staff puts it  “Providing basic needs first and then lending builds a stronger bond and trust between the MFIs and the borrowers.” I think this trusted relation is essential for any MFI’s sustained impact and survival in their strive for the creation of economic independence.

These client focused initiatives are implemented only by 5% of all MFIs in India and need to be more wide spread. It is very encouraging to see this shift in the MFI model in India though and hope to see many more moving in this direction.It is good to see Kiva also increase its focus beyond traditional microfinance and work with such partners.

22 August 2012 at 11:19

20 Years in 2012: A Celebration of Serving the Filipino Poor

The new year is already in full swing and resolutions are being met or failed as we speak. This New Year’s celebrations, for me, was a little different as I got to spend a full week with Center for Community Transformation staff as they celebrated 20 years of growth and successful service to the poor in the Philippines. President Ruth Callanta spent time reflecting on the past but also casting vision for the future as CCT hopes to transform more communities in the Philippines and reach more marginalized people groups.

Continue Reading 22 January 2012 at 04:51 2 comments

All Loans Lead to Home; When an Agricultural Loan is also a Housing (or Student) Loan

By Marcus Berkowitz, KF16, Ecuador

“We built a little house” she replied happily, when I asked how she had used the loan. I looked down at my sheet. Oops. This loan, according to its Kiva description, was for corn seeds and fertilizers.

Of course, we have no right to insist on any particular loan use. That’s not the point. But of the first three borrowers with whom I had spoken as part of Kiva’s Borrower Verification process, not a single one had used the loan for the purpose listed on Kiva. And two of three had built houses with their loans. What gives?

Continue Reading 15 December 2011 at 05:38 3 comments

And the Winner Is…………

By Jill Hall, KF16, Philippines

“And the winner is……..ppprrrrrmmmmmmm” (drum roll). Now, if you are anything like me, the image in your head is of some famous actress or actor fumbling with a large envelope, complaining about how is it hard to open. Luckily, for this post, we are going skip the envelope and talk about a winner who is a little closer to home for this Kiva Fellow. The winner I am talking about is CCT’s very own, Andresa Javines, who is Citi Bank’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” (MOTY) for Mindanao, Philippines.

Continue Reading 14 December 2011 at 07:00 3 comments

Women of the Year

By Andrea Ramirez, KF16, Costa Rica.
Today I was a judge for the first time. I had the honor of being invited to represent Kiva as part of the jury for Fundación Mujer’s 8th annual Woman Entrepreneur Awards for 2011. Today was a day full of stories of strength and success, told by some of the bravest women I have ever met. I knew these women had to be pretty amazing, but my imagination wasn’t wild enough to have predicted the struggles that these women have and continue to face. If you’re looking for inspiration to start a new project, face a difficult situation, or just to get off the couch – keep reading.

Continue Reading 7 December 2011 at 17:18 1 comment

The Ladder of Autonomy

By Allison Moomey, KF16, Burkina Faso

The longer I’m with my partner microfinance institution, Micro Start, the more impressed I am with them.  Not only are they wonderful, hard-working people who get things done, but they also have a long-term, sustainable, and empowering vision.  I recently completed a credit and savings product survey, and one of the questions for each product is “what is the goal of this product?”  The answer always involved the word autonome, or autonomous.  Each product is working to eventually move the client to financial stability and independence.

A loan officer with one of Micro Start's solidarity groups, one rung up on the ladder of autonomy.

(more…)

1 December 2011 at 06:00 3 comments

Study Now, Pay Now: Funding Higher Education in the Philippines

by: Jill Hall, KF16, Philippines

The higher education loan was an exciting idea because it had the potential to provide access to financial backing to those who wanted to pursue further education but were often limited by the lack of availability of funding in their country. The higher education loans hold much potential but it also introduces a whole other set of potentially troubling issues.
It was a pleasure to sit down with Maricar Santiago, CCT with the Visions of Hope division, to discuss the the details of the “Study Now, Pay Now” education loan product.

Continue Reading 12 November 2011 at 18:08 5 comments

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