In our first week as Kiva trainees we were taught that microloans are not intended for the very poorest of the poor. Microfinance institutions target the unbankable poor, those who can benefit from a loan for an income-generating activity. There is another level of poverty below that, those who need emergency help for basic human needs. Many MFIs develop alternative services for this segment of the population. At CCT, one of Kiva’s partners in the Philippines, they have started a sustainable farm for street dwellers: Kaibigan (“Friend”) Village.
At Kaibigan Village, families of former street dwellers grow their own vegetables and rice, raise livestock and farm tilapia. Next year they will add a free-range chicken operation. Their homes are self-constructed from bamboo and concrete, and all of their energy is supplied by biogas and solar power. In the video you can see how pig waste is converted into methane for cooking.
It was interesting to hear about CCT’s step-by-step approach and how projects such as the farm are planning to expand over the coming years. In the U.S. we tend to expect rapid, noticeable change. Kiva’s internal motto is a good example: “Fail fast, fail forward.” This wouldn’t work in the Philippines, where things move more slowly, and change is gradual. Ultimately CCT hopes (but does not expect) that some of the Kaibigans will become self-sustaining microentrepreneurs, but this may not happen for many years.
Casey Koppelson is a roaming Kiva Fellow in the Philippines.