In the past 3 weeks I've had the opportunity to visit dozens of Kiva-supported borrowers, funded by hundreds of generous individuals worldwide, thanks to Kiva's local partner Hluvuku-Adsema, in Mozambique, Africa. Each visit was unique on its own and each individual I met could have their own biopic. But, given my filming skills (or the complete lack thereof) I was more interested in hearing their stories and how the loans changed their lives.
Most of these borrowers live in the rural areas around the capital, Maputo, where Hluvuku's presence is becoming more and more solid, mainly due to the longstanding partnership with Kiva. The majority I have visited live at least one hour away driving from Maputo. Frequently in areas where access is limited. Places that, when it rains, only 4x4 type of vehicles can go through. Houses that carry the very basic in terms of comfort - that is, walls and a roof. Areas where electricity and running water are luxuries, if existent at all. And where addresses are something close to "second house on the left, with brown door and unfinished front wall, after the corn field and before the road bifurcation". And that's the daily reality on the ground.
One day (the last day of the month) I was assigned to follow two loan officers on the field, where they would visit delinquent borrowers in order to understand why they were falling into default and not being able to repay the loans on time. On that day we aimed to visit approximately 10 borrowers. In the end, on that specific day, we only got hold of 6. Just one of them took almost two hours to be reached, following leads from neighbors and colleagues. All but one of those reached on that journey were able to adjust their payments on site. But not before a lot of miles and dead ends.
In the video bellow, you will find me following our friends from Hluvuku during a borrower's visit. It's a small sample of the obstacles on the ground.
Here we were walking under a light rain on a muddy terrain, since the car was not able to reach the borrower's location. ...I'm sorry for the "wonderful" footage. I just can't help it.
Loan officers, just to clarify, are agents that work for the field partner and are ultimately responsible for receiving applications for loan requests from various borrowers, carrying on field interviews and verifications, taking the borrower's picture, explaining what Kiva is and how it works, collecting documentation and doing everything else involved in the loan process. They are also responsible for checking and following up with all those borrowers that had their requests approved.
My idea of how immense the operational challenges are on the ground was consolidated that day. Yet, having the opportunity to see all the hurdles firsthand in the past weeks was nothing short of mind boggling. When I add all these exciting daily inputs I am having the opportunity to be part of, with my experiences at Kiva - in the Community team, answering our lenders, as a Portuguese-English translator at the RTP team, and now as a Kiva Fellow - I can start grasping the complexity behind every single feature or button we see online.
In every step of the way to provide a loan to the unbanked, there are humongous obstacles to be surpassed and realities that can't be overlooked. And making all of that look seamlessly is what Kiva aims to deliver to the lenders, so that they have the best possible experience and the easiest way to hand up those that need it the most.
I strongly encourage those that haven't had the chance to support a borrower from Mozambique, to do so through our so special field partner Hluvuku-Adsema and the current borrowers that so much need your aid.