I have been a lender on the micro lending platform Kiva.org for several years now. Kiva lets you participate in funding for small entrepreneurs in the developing world by giving you access to microfinance institutions in those countries. You can put in as little as $25 to any given loan, and then are repaid monthly. You do not charge any interest, but the likelihood of repayment is above 98%…and it kinda gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling.
Initially, I was an enthusiastic supporter of Kiva, and helped promoting them in Europe through interviews. By now, my enthusiasm has gone down a bit, notably through some not very well communicated changes by Kiva, and more general concerns about whether microlending is actually a way out of poverty. However, I still believe it is one way to contribute to individuals in developing countries, just not the only way.
Why am I posting this here? Meet Kamol. I participated in a loan to this grape grower in Tajikistan two weeks ago. In my head, he will maybe make wine out of these grapes one day. Today, I got a notice that he is still very low on funding and that his listing will expire soon (tomorrow). Now, Kiva is offering a pretty nice deal if you have not yet joined: If you go through this link, http://www.kiva.org/invitedby/oli, and sign up for an account, you can make your first loan without even putting money in. Someone is providing the first round of $25 for you. The repayments go to the person providing that money, but you can experience what it is like to participate. I think that is a pretty neat way of trying it out. In addition, if you follow that link, I will also be able to lend $25 with the repayments going back to Kiva. So, why not giving it a try without any risk and helping out a grape grower in Tajikistan?
If you already are on Kiva, I would love to see fellow winelovers on that loan…:)
I’ve been making Kiva loans for several years since a friend gave me a $25 Kiva gift card for making the first loan as a Christmas present. I once gave a larger gift card as a wedding gift–to people I knew had all the stuff they wanted and would like this sort of thing. I agree that it’s gotten a little less transparent, but I still have lots of confidence in Kiva. I saw the Kiva founder interviewed at a conference several years ago and also heard the founder of the Grameen Bank, Muhammad Yunus, who was the commencement speaker at MIT in 2008. Like Kiva, the Grameen Bank has had a loan repayment rate in the high 90%s.
I like your idea of supporting a wine grower, but I always make my loans to women entrepreneurs. I think my first loan was to a bicycle shop repair shop owned by a woman somewhere in Africa. Microloans are certainly one route out of poverty. Educating girls is the one I believe most in, in the third world and here.
Thanks for sharing, Margaret! I make roughly 2/3s of my loans to women, and 1/3 to men. I also lend through vittana.org, which gives tuition loans to young folks all over the world.
While I always liked the idea behind this (very Ann Arbor of you, btw), it always seemed a bit too Ponzi-scheme-ish. What are the guarantees (if any) that the money is really going where you want it to go?
Thanks for asking! Ultimately, there is no such guarantee. However, Kiva is partnering with some major players in the micro finance world (BRAC for example, or Fundacion Paraguaya). These companies are mostly verifiable through MIX, a database on microfinance institutions. These make money through the interest they charge for the money that we provide interest free. Kiva also monitors on site to ensure that the funds are spent accordingly. Kiva has a four star rating (the highest) by Charity Navigator. I have lent for over 5 years now, and I lost some money in three out of 185 loans, but my overall experience has been good.