Posts tagged ‘sustainability’

Expectations, (harsh) realities, engagement and innovation

Diana Biggs | KF 18 | Burkina Faso

I’d like to think the title of this post sums up my experience in Burkina Faso – perhaps even both professional and personally. I’ll focus on the former here and try to take you through my journey.

Expectations: As a Kiva Fellow, it’s likely you’re a Type A (if on the quirky end), dedicated, well-traveled, highly educated young person, perhaps an experienced professional looking to Pivot (see Patrick’s post for more on that) or mid-studies in a Masters program. Whilst maintaining the flexible state of mind necessary for the field – many in our class were paired with new Field Partners, some in countries where Kiva staff had yet to visit – there are naturally certain expectations or goals set for this commitment. For me, having done research and proposals from a London office, I wanted to see how microfinance programs were actually implemented on the ground.

Ouagadougou street

Walking to work in my first week in Ouaga…


9 October 2012 at 08:00

Selling stoves in Burkina Faso, a humble field guide

Diana Biggs | KF 18 | Burkina Faso

Last week I was lucky enough to join my Entrepreneurs du Monde (EdM) colleagues on a field mission in the Ioba province of Burkina Faso, a rural area that borders Ghana. There, in the town of Dano, is a small EdM office manned by Benoit Some, who covers EdM’s Burkina Faso social enterprise arm, Nafa Naana, in the area.

The small, roadside office doubles as a storage hub and retail outlet for energy-efficient and gas cookstoves (as described in my last blog post).

EdM's Dano office

Cookstove display outside the EdM branch in Dano.

Here, this March, four rural shopkeepers were given training in the Nafa Naana model — the product offering, environmental protection, stock management, cash management and sales techniques. Then in April, EdM set them up for the sale of the cookstoves, providing them with simple management tools, such as receipts and sales lists, posters and an informational leaflet to show interested customers. The organization also installed grills produced by local iron workers to lock up the cookstoves and organized four promotional events in the area to drum up interest. Then of course there were the actual cookstoves, which are supplied to the shopkeepers with interest-free advances.


7 August 2012 at 08:00 4 comments

Malaria Dreams: The True Kiva Fellowship Experience

By Tejal Desai, KF16, Sierra Leone

As my Kiva fellowship winds down, I reflect on the memorable journey I’ve been privileged to experience through the Kiva Fellows Program as a member of its 16th class. Through personal revelations and humbling lessons in adaptation, microfinance work, cultural differences (and a unique incidence of malaria), I’ve grown attached to beautiful Sierra Leone. Throughout the fellowship, I’ve found my journey paralleling that of a character in a humorous novel, Malaria Dreams by Stuart Stevens, in which a man travels through the Central African Republic in one mission in mind: to find a friend’s Land Rover and drive it back to Europe — only to find that his 3-month journey has a lot more in store for him than he anticipated, and nothing goes exactly as planned. My fellowship similarly followed suit with its own surprises, bumps in the road, and memorable moments.

Continue Reading 1 December 2011 at 16:00 6 comments

The Double-Edged Sword: Sierra Leone’s Battle Against Poverty

By Tejal Desai, KF16, Sierra Leone

Aid: What does it mean for a country recovering from a devastating decade-long civil war that killed over 50,000 of its people? And what does it mean for microfinance organizations that aim to loosen the leash from dependency and push for sustainability? After taking an okada ride through Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, one may find the presence of international aid ubiquitous, and acting as a double-edged sword in the fight against poverty.

Continue Reading 16 November 2011 at 15:00 3 comments

A Farm for the Poorest of the Poor

In our first week as Kiva trainees we were taught that microloans are not intended for the very poorest of the poor. Microfinance institutions target the unbankable poor, those who can benefit from a loan for an income-generating activity. There is another level of poverty below that, those who need emergency help for basic human needs. Many MFIs develop alternative services for this segment of the population. At CCT, one of Kiva’s partners in the Philippines, they have started a sustainable farm for street dwellers: Kaibigan (“Friend”) Village. (more…)

18 December 2010 at 15:00 1 comment

Why Lend to a Charcoal Seller?

That’s a question I’d never considered before serving as a Kiva Fellow. I figured that charcoal is a dirty and unsustainable source of fuel, and not one that I want to support. Charcoal production causes massive deforestation and produces considerable emissions of carbon dioxide. So when presented with the option of lending to a charcoal seller on Kiva’s website, I always selected an entrepreneur in a different sector to support.

Flash forward a few months – I have now enjoyed hundreds of meals cooked on charcoal stoves and grills, first in Rwanda and now in Tanzania. I’ve also met about a dozen Kiva clients who make their living producing and selling charcoal. These experiences haven’t made me a full advocate for continued use of charcoal fuel. They have, however, made me realize that the issues surrounding sustainable energy are not white and black, but closer to charcoal grey. So here’s why I would now consider lending to a charcoal seller and supporting them through Kiva…

Continue Reading 23 June 2010 at 01:44 11 comments

Bonjour, Bamako: Soro Yiriwaso’s Monument to Sustainability

By Jessica Chervin, KF7 Mali

Save for the high beams of the Land Cruiser and a few fluorescent lamps, I couldn’t see much as we drove off the paved road and onto a bumpy street, nestled deep within the quartier Cité UNICEF, a relatively poor neighborhood of Bamako (the capital of Mali) and my home base for the next few months. Then, from the darkness and dust, it rose: a glistening yellow building that, against the local backdrop, appeared rather like Oz…

I am Jessica Chervin, age 24, from New York, New York, and a proud member of the seventh class of Kiva Fellows. I have had the tremendous fortune to be placed with Soro Yiriwaso (which means “fructify the revenues of the home” in Bambara), Kiva’s first and only field partner MFI in Mali. As the first Kiva Fellow ever to work with Soro, I am charged with getting to know their organization deeply in the spirit of strengthening its partnership with Kiva.  So, what of this “Oz”?

Soro Yiriwaso's new facility in Bamako

Soro Yiriwaso's new facility in the Cité UNICEF neighborhood of Bamako

Soro, which is currently headquartered in small town called Bougouni, has just constructed its first facility in Bamako. On my third day there, Soro’s director invited me to attend their direction’s official walk-through and reception, at which the architect and several members of the board were also present. The mood in the conference room was solemn.  This building, for them, is a dream realized. Soro’s arrival in the capital heralds the organization’s coming of age.  But as I listened to each of them reflect on the project, a deeper and greater symbolic power of the building emerged.

I thought of Soro’s mission, “To increase economic opportunities of disadvantaged Malian entrepreneurs, particularly women, in offering them enduring access to financial services”.  And of Soro’s vision for itself: “A solid, autonomous, and perennial microfinance institution”.  In every way, this building is the physical embodiment of each of Soro’s values.  The idea of accessibility, for example, cannot be overstated. Soro’s choice to erect its magnificent headquarters in a poor neighborhood of the capital sends a bold message to its target population: we are HERE, for YOU, and we are not going anywhere.  It beckons.  It inspires.


A placard, detailing Soro Yiriwaso's mission and values, that hangs in the conference room of its Bougouni office

We members of the Kiva community, Kiva Fellows and lenders alike, see everyday that the basic and empowering principles of microlending work. But the consistent and enduring provision of financial services by microfinance institutions, the superstructure over a world of people ready to put their dreams into motion, is what makes the system run. Soro’s monument to sustainability is bona fide proof that, at the institutional level, microfinance can, does, and will work.  And, as Kiva lenders, each of us has the special privilege of partnering in this industry-building effort.

I look forward to sharing stories of Soro in action with you in the months to come!

Click here to lend to Malian entrepreneurs through Soro Yiriwaso (check back soon if your friends have beat you to them), and join Team Fructification, Soro’s new lending team!

22 February 2009 at 06:35 9 comments

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