Dar es Salaam. The city is an assault on the senses. Flying into Nyerere International airport, my first glimpse of Tanzania, and indeed of Africa, is incredibly beautiful – mile upon mile of azure ocean clings alluringly to a sandy coastline, clusters of coconut trees spring up from between houses with maroon and blue roofs, and an incredible profusion of blood red hibiscus infuse the entire landscape with color and vibrancy. Quite simply, it is breathtaking. Little wonder then that the city’s name translates into ‘abode of peace’ in Arabic, named so by Arab...Continue Reading >>
In Cambodia, AMK has the lowest average loan balance per borrower. According to MIXMarket, AMK’s average balance at the end of 2007 was $86 per borrower. To put that in perspective the second lowest was AMRET at $164, which is nearly 90% higher. HKL, Credit MFI, and Maxima (the other three Cambodian MFIs working with Kiva) have an average loan balance of $603, $564, and $514 respectively. Currently, 93.4% of AMK’s loans are below $300 and their average loan balance is now $114. AMK chooses to keep their average loan balance low. They limit individual loans to $500 and they...Continue Reading >>
Well, maybe I’m not the first to discover that microfinance existed in Cameroon before the Grameen bank was founded in India or before Mohammed Yunnus got the Nobel Prize, but I felt like I had when I stumbled upon Njangi while talking to some friends over the weekend. The young people who I’ve met in Cameroon are all very intelligent and informed. The standard of education is excellent and radio commercials advertising excellent classroom facilities for young children frequent the radio. Conversation amongst the teens most often centers on grades from the last semester and I’ve yet to...Continue Reading >>
I am sitting in the modest headquarters of GHAPE in Bamenda, north west Cameroon.
I am surrounded by the membership books of some of the organisation’s small borrowers, detailing their loan totals and bi-monthly repayments. There is no column for defaults. When the women (it is mostly women) meet to make their regular contributions they stay in the room until the right amount of money has been collected. If someone cannot make their payment then the others have to make up the difference. But they all know each other and it’s never good to...Continue Reading >>
Mornings, always one rooster does not know the time of day. As is customary in the neighborhood, most chickens start calling between five and six – but renegade number one is early. 4:30, last time I checked.
To be sure, were it not for the roosters I am guaranteed to wake soon after. Shortly after six the children start to make pattering noises outside my door, as they run out to wash and brush and use the outhouse, and to heat the water kettle for the plastic...Continue Reading >>
When I first began working in Washington D.C. on Capitol Hill, my initial impression was horror that the country was being run by a bunch of 20-somethings. At 23, I was solidly within the median age range and even felt old when I saw peers walking around with short skirts, finding myself thinking “how inappropriate!” It didn’t take me long to become accustomed to the age range of Hill staffers and soon it even made sense to me that they’d all be so young. The hours were grueling, the work was exhausting, and without energy, enthusiasm, and a youth-like belief in...Continue Reading >>
A few of P-BPW’s borrowers.
A regular borrower’s group meeting.
Borrowers making payments with loan officer.
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Field visits are by far the best part about being a Kiva Fellow. You’re given the opportunity to hop on a motorbike, hike up a village trail, and actually see the impact of a Kiva loan firsthand.
While this is indeed an incredible experience, after a few weeks of checking in on chicken farmers and vegetable vendors, you begin to think you’ve seen the extent of microfinance’s impact: a few new chickens or vegetables, a small increase in profit margins, etc.
But then you meet someone like Ms. Rita…
Ms. Rita Bashnet lives in the...Continue Reading >>
I should have been a better blogger.
After two months in the field as a Kiva Fellow, I have now returned home to speedy internet, reliable electricity, and a slightly more predictable daily schedule. So, from my comfortable desk with my cup of coffee, I will now try to make up for a less than prolific blogging history.
It can be hard to convey the sights, sounds, challenges, and small victories that are experienced in the field, but here I will attempt to pass along a few stories that might give others a better understanding of Kiva Fellows and the field partners that so...Continue Reading >>
During Kiva orientation, we each had to name our biggest fears about the fellowship. I said I was nervous about not fitting in—I’d learned to adapt pretty well while living in Chile for a year and on my best day I could pass for Chilean, but I knew living in Bolivia would be another story. As soon as I set foot in El Alto, however, I realized how silly my worries were as this fear was immediately eclipsed by another—the constant feeling that I was about to be run over by a minibus.
... Continue Reading >>