Living in Bamenda, Cameroon is relatively inexpensive. Taking a taxi from one end of the city to the other can cost you a maximum of 250 CFAs (50 cents). Granted, with everything else, you have to sacrifice some luxuries. Using the taxi as an example, the driver, at times, will fit 7 passengers with him in his mid-sized sedan. That is not unusual, especially for longer trips. Other purchases can be extremely cheap when compared to US prices. An avocado, or “pear” here, costs about 75 CFA (or 15 cents). They can cost even less at times. The trick to getting the low price is,...Continue Reading >>
Wrapping up my six month fellowship with Kiva, I’m not sure how to express that thought any more artfully. On balance I’ve been inspired by the people I’ve met who, with only meager means, must spend long days at arduous tasks in order to support their families. But I’ve also had to confront the reality that a life in poverty often means making hard choices every day. The temptation to judge these decisions can be tempting until you realize that in many cases people have few good options on the table.
In Tajikistan I spent many days in the bazaars and was initially surprised...Continue Reading >>
Long hours, low pay, angry barking dogs, collection calls, long motorcycle rides and even longer walks…………what on earth keeps these loan officers “in the saddle” 8+ hours a day, 6 days a week? I interviewed two of ASDIR’s (Kiva’s partner bank in Totonicapan, Guatemala) loan officers to try and find out.
I have to say I have been most impressed by the dedication, care and compassion of the loan officers at this MFI. I would also bet that most of Kiva’s 90+ field partners have similar, committed loan officers—- clearly...Continue Reading >>
The other day in the Mission district at Kiva headquarters in San Francisco, I converged with three micro enterprises, on just one corner. A young man selling fresh oranges, a Popsicle and ice-cream cart vendor, and another man with a tall stick of cotton candy- $2 each. Although this coincidence is quite novel, it does explain another, larger phenomenon. Perhaps the true impact of small businesses in the U.S. is underestimated. AEO, the association for Enterprise Opportunity, says that 87% of all businesses in the U.S. are microenterprises, businesses with fewer then 5 employees. As a...Continue Reading >>
It’s easier to make sense of Rwanda if you erase the human element of the Genocide that happened here fifteen years ago. If we could just pretend it wasn’t actual people who perpetrated the one million unthinkable acts, it would simplify the dynamics of the country. Afterall, if we acknowledge that it was not only people but fellow Rwandese who held the machetes, we need to also see that they still exist—and not in an abstract way but in a day-to-day, walking down the street, drinking milk for breakfast, and sending children to school kind of way.
Many perpetrators of the 1994...Continue Reading >>
I recently picked up The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It by Paul Collier, Professor of Economics and Director for the Study of African Economics at Oxford University and former director of Development Research at the World Bank. It has been a grim and simultaneously enlightening book, dubbed as a must-read by the New York Times and set to become a classic according to the Economist.
In a nutshell, The Bottom Billion states that our perception of development for the last forty years has...Continue Reading >>
West Timor is the country equivalent of Robert Downey Senior. The usual reaction is “West Timor? I didn’t know there was a West Timor. But I’ve heard of East Timor so I suppose it makes sense”.
And indeed it does make sense, especially if you live here. West Timor, formerly a Dutch colony until it was un-clogged in 1945, is on an island towards the eastern side of Indonesia (Timur conveniently means “east” in Indonesian) but, it should be stressed, not the most easterly island as that is Papua and or West Papua (to clarify please see www.google....Continue Reading >>
I told myself I’d avoid writing a blog entry that involved too much rumination on the meaning of microfinance. Oops.
Before I left for Paraguay, I had a long conversation with Cara Gutterman, the first Kiva Fellow assigned to Fundación Paraguaya. In addition to giving me some insight into the food (fine) and the weather (very, very hot), Cara told me that many of the borrowers she met during her time in Paraguay didn’t seem to be lifting themselves out of poverty; in fact, they didn’t seem to be the poorest of the poor, but instead were a group of...Continue Reading >>
Having spent two months in Bluefields, Nicaragua now, I have been struck by the near absence of two characteristics common in impoverished areas: illiteracy and child labor. This statement is based purely on my own observation. Unfortunately very little statistical data exists for this region. Nevertheless, what I have seen here in terms of these two particular, yet intimately related, challenges to development is one of very few things that gives me hope and even a little optimism for future development here.
When interviewing recipients of Kiva loans, I often ask the client how...Continue Reading >>
Thank you for all the loans you make to Kiva. As a Kiva Fellow, I get the joy of receiving the gratitude that is truly meant for all of you.
A few weeks back I had the pleasure of meeting Florence Musola at a loan disbursement for the Balikyewunya Borrower’s Group. She was one of the first members to arrive at the meeting, so we were able to carry out a lengthy interview while the other members trickled in. It was fortunate that we got started early because Florence had lots to tell us about being a florist in Kampala, Uganda.... Continue Reading >>