marcusofulano

Fellows Blog Posts by marcusofulano

Dec 23, 2011 EC Ecuador

By Marcus Berkowitz, KF16, Ecuador

Institutional birthdays in the US can be fairly stuffy affairs. Seating is often arranged to maximize contact with those in the institution with whom one has never spoken (perhaps for good reason, argue some guests) and they tend to be remembered more for inappropriate comments inserted into otherwise boring speeches rather than for the celebrations that they hope to be but rarely are.

Not so at the Cooperativa San Jose de Chimbo (CSJ). Instead of standing around awkwardly, everyone secretly wishing they were somewhere else, the 47th...

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Dec 15, 2011 EC Ecuador

By Marcus Berkowitz, KF16, Ecuador

“We built a little house” she replied happily, when I asked how she had used the loan. I looked down at my sheet. Oops. This loan, according to its Kiva description, was for corn seeds and fertilizers.

"A little house". Typical rural house made of wood, with a part-thatched, part-aluminum roof. Chillanes Canton.

Of course, we have no right to insist on any particular loan use. That’s not the point. But of the first...

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Nov 10, 2011 EC Ecuador

By Marcus Berkowitz, KF16, Ecuador

When I was a kid and I asked for something I wasn’t going to get, my mother would start snidely singing, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. Unfortunately for borrowers with a lot of outstanding debt, nobody is there to sing to them if they don’t get the loan they are looking for.

My first experience meeting borrowers several weeks ago was thus a complicated one. First, a little background.

The Cooperativa San Jose (CSJ), a credit union, has been implementing its Ventanillas Rurales micro-loan product in the remote Ecuadorian...

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Oct 12, 2011 EC Ecuador

By Marcus Berkowitz, KF16, Ecuador

Imagine yourself stepping outside of your tomato-colored house and onto a peaceful street, steeply hung over a mid-sized Ecuadorian town nestled in a lush valley. It’s nearly silent as you walk to the bus stop. You can see the center of town bustling below you. The giant Mt. Chimborazo in the distance and the smaller range just in front of it block the harshness of the early morning sun, casting a soft light on the quiet countryside.

This peace lasts no more than a couple of minutes before it is loudly shattered by the shouting of...

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Oct 4, 2011 EC Ecuador

By Marcus Berkowitz, KF16, Ecuador

Farmers are tough cookies. As it turns out, they’re even tougher to finance effectively. Those who work in agriculture are faced with a unique set of conditions that make most traditional microfinance methods unfeasible for them. This post examines some of the reasons why farmers stand apart from other borrowers, and explores the clever efforts of an Ecuadorian Kiva partner to craft a loan product that is appropriate to their needs.

The partner is the Cooperativa de Ahorro y Credito San Jose de Chimbo, (Cooperativa San Jose...

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Sep 30, 2011 EC Ecuador

By Marcus Berkowitz, KF16, Ecuador

“Do you know how to ride a motorcycle?” asked the stranger seated directly in front of me, his voice muffled by his helmet.

I thought it a little late to ask, seeing as I was currently gripping his belly from behind as we flew, several mph faster than strict necessity would dictate, around a precipitously tight corner on the edge of the western cordillera of the Andes.

“No,” I said, “I’m supposed to put my hands over your eyes, right?”

Luckily he didn’t hear me. Or at least was kind enough to pretend not to.

It...

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