By Karl Baumgarten, KF9 Costa Rica
After a rainy welcome to San Isidro del General yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised by sunshine and smiles for my first day at FUDECOSUR, an MFI working in the impoverished districts of Southern Costa Rica. With my Spanish struggling but my effort appreciated, the staff welcomed the new face around the office that promised to bring more work to their already hectic schedules. FUDECOSUR is currently poised at an interesting time during their pilot partnership with Kiva. They are perhaps days away from posting their first loans to Kiva, geared up to use Kiva’s 0% capital to expand to new, more remote regions of southern Costa Rica.
In the past, Costa Rican MFIs have struggled to obtain commercial funding as many microfinance funds bypass Costa Rica, lending instead to MFIs located in countries more often associated with poverty. Still Costa Rica is not all white sand beaches and towering high-rise resorts. Much of the country still lives in poverty, especially those small-scale farmers reliant on the large plantations to provide their supplementary though transient income. Here village banks can help. FUDECOSUR sets up credit committees that dole out agriculture loans on a demand driven basis. As these committees have an intimate knowledge of market conditions on the ground, they are better prepared to assess risk and respond accordingly. It will be exciting to watch these village banks in action; tomorrow I will get my feet wet with a visit to one of these village banks where we will be performing the first borrower profile surveys.
As for an introduction, my name is Karl Baumgarten and I am a member of the ninth class of Kiva Fellows. I am humbled to be part of this diverse, passionate group and I look forward to keeping you updated with all the happenings in Costa Rican microfinance along with my Tica Kiva comrade in San Jose, Alana Solimeo. Look out for FUDECOSUR´s loans to be coming online this week and please join our lending team, Friends of FUDECOSUR to be updated when their first agricultural loans hit the site./>