Compiled by Kate Bennett, KF16, Peru

Doña Martina with her cow near La Paz, Bolivia. By Eric Rindal, KF16

This week Fellows look at the questions surrounding microfinance, or perhaps more specifically, Kiva-style microfinance: what is Christian microfinance in Rwanda? Where are these borrower profiles actually coming from? What is the everyday mentality of a Kiva micro-borrower? What’s this about Field Partners in the United States? What above-and-beyond services are our Field Partners offering Kiva Clients? And the ten-thousand dollar questions- “Why micro loans; Why small business; and Why poverty?” Through anecdotes in the field and insight from borrowers, this week Fellows try to give us a little illumination.

Say a Little Prayer for the Portfolio: 5 Questions about Christian Microfinance in Rwanda
Country: Rwanda / Fellows: Kathrin Gerner, KF15 & KF16, Whitney Webb, KF16

What does a “Christian” microfinance institution do differently than the rest of Kiva’s Field Partners? Kathrin and Whitney, intrigued by the question, walk us through a Top Five FAQ. But at end of the day, the upshot is the same: extend access to microcredit to the rural poor.

Wrap your Arms around Me
Country: Ecuador / Fellow: Marcus Berkowitz, KF16

Marcus pulls us onto a typical busride in Ecuador, complete with Reggaeton, sardined-crowds, and just enough breathing room to get by. It’s just one of the many obstacles rural borrowers would face if required to make the long trip to Kiva Field Partner Cooperativa San Jose’s office for each repayment- but luckily, CSJ’s Ventanillas Rurales program is working to spare them the trip.

High-tops in The Commercial Jungle: The Life of a Shoe Salesman
Country: Nicaragua / Fellow: Jim Burke, KF16

Jim guides us through Mercado Oriental, the largest commercial market in Central America, to the area’s most entrepreneurial shoe salesman: Kiva Borrower Marcial Salvador. In the bowels of the market, tucked among 60-blocks of small businessmen and women, we enter the world of Marcial’s micro-enterprise.

Meeting Karsinah: Maximizing My Social Return on Investment
Country: Indonesia / Fellow: Laurie Young, KF16

While Kiva lenders don’t make money on their Kiva loans, they do cash in on something less tangible: the social return. Though usually in the form of journals, the thrill of repayment day, and the personal connection that the most basic borrower profile can facilitate, for some lucky Kiva Fellows in the field, there is the ultimate social return: meeting the borrower herself!

A Day in the Life Part I: Kiva Coordinator
Country: Burkina Faso / Fellow: Allison Moomey, KF16

Allison has been working to get Kiva’s first partner in Burkina Faso, Micro Start, off the ground. But as with all Kiva Field Partners, past and present, this work would be impossible would Micro Start’s Kiva Coordinator (that’s ‘KC’ in Kiva-speak). Allison walks us through a day’s work in the Micro Start’s KC’s shoes.

New Orleans: A Developing Country in America?
Country: United States / Fellow: Rebecca Corey, KF9 & KF16

Coming to New Orleans after her last fellowship in Tanzania, Rebecca acknowledges the differences, but she can’t help but draw some comparisons. One thing is clear: the success of microfinance in development can bridge the gap between Tanzania and New Orleans.

Why micro loans; Why small business; and Why poverty
Country: Bolivia / Fellow: Eric Rindal, KF15 & KF16

As Eric settles into the lifestyle of a Kiva Fellow, he seeks to answer the lingering questions surrounding his work in Sierra Leone and Bolivia. Taking on the “big questions” of Kiva this week, Eric turns to his KC and his borrowers for a little elucidation.

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Loan Use, Agriculture Loans + Stuff Kiva Fellows Like
Starting Capital, Development Levels + Adventurous Borrower Visits
Going Pilot to Active, Meeting Borrowers + Technology and Social Performance
Costs of Kiva, Donkey Shares + the Law of Diminishing Marginal Returns
Loan Sharks, Snapshots + “the Country with a Smile”

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Plus pictures from the past week:

Ashley, a Kiva New Orleans borrower. By Rebecca Corey, KF9 Tanzania, KF16 New Orleans, USA

Happy, a Tanzanian Kiva borrower. By Rebecca Corey, KF9 Tanzania, KF16 New Orleans, USA

Marcial Salvador selling high-tops. By Jim Burke, KF16, Nicaragua

Discussing a group loan during a borrower verification. By Laurie Young, KF 16, Indonesia

A borrower profile picture in Burkina Faso. By Allison Moomey, KF16, Burkina Faso

And finally, a video of Amasezerano employees getting their prayer on in Rwanda:

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Prior to working with Kiva, Kate lived in Quito, Ecuador working in environmental management as a consultant for USAID implementing partners in the global south. After earning her B.A. in Political Economy, Postcolonial History, and Development from New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study in January 2010, she pursued a practice-based understanding of effective tools in development through work with New York based social change organizations and grassroots nonprofit organizations in Guatemala. Kate worked previously with Kiva as a Kiva Fellow in Ecuador and Peru, which fomented her commitment to microfinance as a tool for poverty alleviation.