06 September 2008

Zenobia, too, is a banker to the poor!

Yes, we really can (and not just words)

Remember the Nobel Prize in 2006 - Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank "for their efforts to create economic and social development from below"? Those efforts were microlending: small loans to entrepreneurs - $1500, perhaps, or even less. It can turn someone's world around.*

But you had to have money to lend. Now, thanks to an organization called Kiva, you can get involved in microlending with as little as twenty-five extra dollars (twice nothing in Euro's or GBP!). For the price of a DVD or a good book or a lunch, you can help someone start on the road out of poverty.

Watch the video

Loans that change lives

Kiva is the world's first person-to-person micro-lending website. By enabling people to connect with and bundle personal loans to low-income entrepreneurs in the developing world, Kiva is revolutionizing the fight against global poverty. You can make a direct loan of $25 or more to an entrepreneur to purchase business-related items such as sewing machines or livestock. This can dramatically improve the life of an entrepreneur and her family, empowering them to earn their way out of poverty.

This week 19,288 lenders have made a loan.

It's on the straight and narrow too. From the New York Times:
“You, Too, Can Be a Banker to the Poor”
“For those readers who ask me what they can do to help fight poverty, one option is to sit down at your computer and become a microfinancier. That’s what I did recently. From my laptop in New York, I lent $25 each to the owner of a TV repair shop in Afghanistan, a baker in Afghanistan, and a single mother running a clothing shop in the Dominican Republic. I did this through www.kiva.org, a Web site that provides information about entrepreneurs in poor countries — their photos, loan proposals and credit history — and allows people to make direct loans to them.”**
A little money goes a long way

You can go to Kiva's website and lend to someone in the developing world who needs a loan for their business - like raising goats, selling vegetables at market or making bricks. Each loan has a picture of the entrepreneur, a description of their business and how they plan to use the loan so you know exactly how your money is being spent - and you get updates letting you know how the entrepreneur is going.

The best part is, when the entrepreneur pays back their loan you get your money back - and Kiva's loans are managed by microfinance institutions on the ground who have a lot of experience doing this, so you can trust that your money is being handled responsibly.

Although Kiva's clients have a pretty good repayment rate (currently 98.47%), you should always remember that , there are no guarantees. But that's actually one of the things that makes this so attractive (and probably so successful): if you lend out $25 and don't get it back, it's not a tragedy. And if you do - it's such a success.

Zenobia and her friends will be giving Kiva gift certificates this Christmas. How about you?

Photo of Houndjénouko ADANOU from www.Kiva.org. Born in 1967 in Tokplitomé, Togo, Mrs Adanou lives with her husband in the villge of Tékponou. The mother of five children, she manages a business of rams (buying and selling). She purchases rams and re-sells them at the Saturday market.

* Thank you Ridger of The Greenbelt for alerting me to this brilliant plan.

** Nicholas Kristof, 27 March 2007

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