By Tara Capsuto, KF12, Ecuador

Taking a picture of a Kiva borrower sounds easy enough, right?  Snap a picture at his or her business, shrink the photo size, and upload to the Kiva website. Three easy steps. That´s what I thought before I had the chance to see how very challenging this seemingly simple task can be.  As many Kiva Fellows can attest, there are actually lots of challenges to snapping that coveted profile picture, you know that one with the borrower doing their soon-to-be-Kiva-funded work, with good lighting and a big smile? It`s that picture that makes you want to loan before you even get to the borrower description.  I’d like to describe one particular challenge to taking borrower pictures and end with a call for suggestions.

First, here are a few common hurdles to getting that perfect picture:

  • Some borrowers are hesitant to have their picture taken
  • It may not logistically possible to get a picture at the borrower´s place of business (this can be especially challenging with village banks where borrowers often come from afar)
  • The microfinance institution (MFI) may  not have enough digital cameras to send out with numerous loan officers

The challenge here at Fundación D-MIRO is not the absence of cameras but the presence. Let me explain what I mean. Fundación D-MIRO works in peri-urban, marginalized areas where it’s generally unsafe to carry valuables like a bulky digital camera. Carrying such a camera puts loan officers at high risk for being robbed when they make client visits on foot, which is the majority of the time. Over the past several weeks I`ve been conducting trainings with loan officers at Fundación D-MIRO`s 7 offices implementing Kiva and at each meeting, loan officers highlighted this issue when I asked what they find most challenging about Kiva responsibilities.

Loan officers are working around this as best they can. Each of D-MIRO´s agencies (with 5 to 14 loan officers) has a car or a couple of motorcycles and they try to do Kiva interviews when they have access to one of these modes of transportation to make carrying a camera safer. However, this means they miss out on a lot of opportunities to add Kiva borrowers and they often have to use a car to go back to take a picture of a client they initially interviewed on one of their days on foot, which can be very time consuming.

The difficulty of carrying a camera is but perhaps part and parcel of doing exactly what D-MIRO, and microfinance, are aiming to do: reach traditionally under-served clients, in neighborhoods where traditional banks choose not to operate. Nevertheless, I remain hopeful that a mitigation strategy is possible.  So I ask you, how would you solve this?

Despite the camera challenge, Fundación D-MIRO is successfully posting a consistent number of high quality borrower profiles (with pictures, of course!) on Kiva. Reward the hard work of Fundación D-MIRO`s clients and the loan officers who make it all happen by making a loan today.

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Tara Capsuto is a Kiva Fellow currently serving at Fundación D-MIRO in Guayaquil, Ecuador.


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