Mar 30, 2009

After about 6 weeks being out in the field and working with my MFI, I sent the following email to the 7th class kiva fellows:

I have a burning question I’d like to ask all of you: now that you’ve been working with your respective mfi’s for some time now, what do you think about microfinance (in general)? Any good surprises? Any bad surprises?

What followed was a long, fascinating discussion that we thought would be a good idea to publish here. I’ve posted the replies as comments to this post. Hope you enjoy!

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Mar 30, 2009 GT Guatemala

**Warning: Do not read if you are my parents**

Yesterday morning the secretary of FAPE (the MFI I am working with here in Guatemala City) woke up at 4:30am. As she left her house she kissed her 3-year-old son goodbye and told him that if she didn’t come home tonight he should know that she loves him. She then waited at the bus stop for over 2 hours for a city bus to bring her the 5 miles to the FAPE office.

Guatemala City (“Guate”) is in a public transportation crisis. It’s taken me awhile to...

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Mar 27, 2009 VN Vietnam

According to the author of Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell, Asians are typically better at math because rice farming is so much more labor and time intensive than all other forms of agriculture. While we don’t necessarily agree with the math side of his argument, we agree with the difficulty of rice farming.

Many of the Vietnamese Kiva borrowers are themselves rice farmers. In order to appreciate and gain a sense of what the life of a Vietnamese Kiva borrower is like, we, the two Kiva Fellows in Vietnam, took the...

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Mar 27, 2009 VN Vietnam

(cont’d from Kiva Fellows IN the field – Part 1)

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Mar 27, 2009 KH Cambodia

For many NGO’s and even corporate offices, “the field” refers to branch offices and client meetings held outside of company headquarters. “Going into the field” is a very commonly used phrase on the Kiva Fellows blog. This broad definition applies to the work of Kiva Fellows as well, but we get to say we are “off to the field” with extra pizazz because, well – we literally go to the fields.

Step into my office...

(You...

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Mar 27, 2009 KE Kenya

Neat pajamas. That was one of two things I got out of having Amoebic Dysentery last week. The other, was a new appreciation for the work that K-MET, the development corporation with a small micro-finance wing, is doing.

Bad Food. Neat Pajamas.

I had been in Kisumu, Kenya for nearly three weeks and was really starting to hit my stride when the stomach rumble that is all too familiar to my fellow fellows rudely interrupted me. I’ll leave out the nasty parts but...

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Mar 27, 2009 UG Uganda

To understand the interest rate that Pearl Microfinance charges its clients takes more than a brief look at a few numbers.

If you ask someone at Pearl what the interest rate is on Pearl loans, they will tell you “2.5%.” This means that there is a 2.5% per month interest rate. 2.5% interest is charged on the original loan amount rather than the balance remaining – in technical terms this is a flat interest rate rather than a declining interest rate. With a flat interest rate, over in a year, the clients would be charged 30% of the original loan size, and with the declining balance...

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Mar 26, 2009 TJ Tajikistan

At 7:15am in the morning, I got into a car with my MFI’s boss and three other employees. They were headed to Kurgan-Tube, a town about 150km from the border of Afghanistan, to check out a few things at their local branch and offered me to come along. Since this would be a good opportunity to meet with a few micro-finance borrowers in that area, I jumped at the opportunity.

When I got to the branch office, one of their loan officers offered to take me to a handful of his clients that were coming to an end of paying back their loans. These are typical micro-finance customers and...

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Mar 26, 2009 SN Senegal

Call me a skeptic, but I’m generally not one for clichés. You know how sometimes you read about situations where even though people don’t speak a common language, yet somehow, everyone understands each other? That’s not exactly my experience in Senegal. While the official language here is French, which I speak passably, the more common language is Wolof, which is spoken by the Wolof people and increasingly, almost everyone else in Senegal, though depending on where people are from, they may speak one of a dozen other languages on a regular basis. I spend a lot of my time confused....

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Mar 24, 2009 KH Cambodia

HKL, the MFI that I am at for my first Kiva Fellowship, has Kiva loans all over Cambodia, which means if I want to visit with a decent number of Kiva borrowers I have to do a fair amount to traveling. Last week I did my first of several week long excursions to a branch office, this time in Siem Reap. Some of you may have heard of this town before as it is the home to Angkor Wat:

Angkor Wat!!!

Needless to say I did not complain when it was decided that this would be going...

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