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 village of Bhatkepati, a small rural development on the outskirts of the Kathmandu Valley. Five years ago, Ms. Rita took her first loan of NRs. 10,000 (USD $150) and purchased some extra seed and fertilizer in the hopes of expanding her small vegetable patch. With the profits from this initial investment and a second loan from Patan Business and Professional Women (they offer a graduated loan program), she then purchased her first dairy cow.
Most dairy cows in Nepal give about 6 liters of milk per day. At about USD $0.50 per liter, Ms. Bashnet hoped that this additional revenue would allow her to further diversify her family’s income. The investment paid off and, with her small savings and the funds provided by the new cow, Ms. Rita purchased a van for her husband, which he now uses to ferry passengers from the village to the more central urban areas of the capital.
From an initial loan of USD $150, Ms. Rita had managed to expand her vegetable operation, purchase a cow, and provide her husband with a job. But Ms. Rita still had more plans…
Kathmandu has long been plagued by fuel shortages that force people to wait up to three weeks for a single cylinder of cooking gas. With deforestation a serious concern throughout the country, many are forced to either further contribute to this environmental problem or use fuel sources such as small brush and trash that are both inefficient and fill small, poorly ventilated homes with heavy black smoke. After hearing about a program that subsidized the installation of methane gas storage tanks, Ms. Rita took another loan and applied for the program. With this new system, she is now able to capture the valuable gas released from her cow’s waste in a simple controlled-release storage tank. Today she no longer purchases gas from the city and can even sell some during times of shortage. With a smart investment, Ms. Rita was able to meet her own energy needs while increasing the income-generating potential of her previous investment.
With her gardens producing healthy vegetables, her husband employed, and her cow producing valuable milk and fuel, Ms. Rita recently took a final loan of NRs. 30,000 (USD $475). This loan has been used to purchase a high-yielding jersey cow that Ms. Rita reports is now producing a whopping 20+ liters of milk each day. This new investment has already proven so fruitful that the Bashnet family has begun construction on a new home on their property.
Ms. Rita exemplifies the potential of microfinance. A combination of access to capital and strategic investment has allowed her and her family to drastically improve their economic situation in a short five years. On the day I visited her farm, she fed me cucumber from her fields, milk (heated on her methane stove) from her new cow, and gave me a tour of her nearly-completed home.
See photos below: