by Gustavo Visalli, KF14

Canasteras Group and Loan Officer

A loan officer (center) meets with her clients

One key challenge to spreading microcredit in rural Guatemalan communities is actually finding entrepreneurs who are looking for a loan. In the rural highlands borrowers are not exactly surfing Google in their search for a way to expand their businesses. This makes monthly promotions crucial to finding new clients and keeping the Microfinance Institution (MFI) afloat. (It has also proved challenging to keep up with Kiva lenders; at the end of February all loans were fully funded at one point on Kiva!)

Yolanda, a loan officer in one of ASDIRs rural branch offices, let me tag along one day to experience firsthand how challenging this can be.

ASDIR loan officers must rely on word of mouth and make themselves as accessible as possible to prospective borrowers. We rode a microbus (Yolanda is not a fan of riding on motorbikes) for an hour up and down a rough dirt road. Our goal was to reach and meet with previous clients and inquire about any possible new prospects.

We forgot that we were travelling on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday here in Guatemala. This day involves groups of young boys running around throwing rotten eggs and handfuls of flour at teachers, young girls, and apparently, loan officers and Kiva Fellows:

I was initially surprised that Yolanda offered to take me along on one of these promotional visits (I imagined a loan officer knocking on every door in the neighborhood and dishing out the same sales pitch). However, Yolanda had a very casual and respectful approach with her contacts. Watching her interact with members of Las Canasteras Group was like watching old friends catch up after months of absence. This could be why ASDIR has so many repeat borrowers.

Las Canasteras Group has three previous loans with ASDIR. One group member, Doña Loida Isabel, used her portion of the loan to develop her general goods store and chicken raising business. Her previous loan is 100% repaid, and we spoke about the possibility of the group’s next loan and its use.

Click to view slideshow.

Back home in the U.S., door to door salespeople lose their credibility with me the moment they ring my doorbell. If your product is so amazing, why does it require you to travel to my doorstep for me to hear about it? Rural microloans obviously do not apply to this reasoning because of accessibility. An MFI requires loan officers with the drive of a salesperson in order to stay sustainable. This drive combined with an honest approach to new and existing clients is an art which Yolanda has clearly mastered.

ASDIR’s partnership with Kiva makes ASDIR loans even more accessible to the rural community. It’s the hard work in the field at the beginning of the month that keeps new profiles popping up on Kiva.org.

Gustavo is a Kiva Fellow working with Asociación ASDIR in Totonicapán, Guatemala. He forgot about being covered in flour after a few hours and wondered why he was getting so many strange looks and laughs for the rest of the day.

Take 20 seconds to join the Amigos de ASDIR lending team on Kiva today!

Gustavo’s previous posts:

Community Vigilantism Keeps Toto Tranquil

The Highland Commute


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