A couple days ago, I had the privilege to sit down with Nanik B. Yayuk, a Kiva client in the Badung region of Bali who received a loan of $125 to help her with her recyclables business. Although there are quite a few Kiva clients in the recyclables business, the afternoon I spent chatting with Nanik was a true highlight. Nanik spent 45 minutes happily discussing how the recyclables business works and how she has been utilizing her loan from Kiva to grow her business.
As I learned from Nanik and other clients, the business of collecting and reselling recyclables in Badung is very labor intensive and highly competitive. In summary, collectors go around and collect recyclable materials off of the streets, including plastic, iron and cardboard. There are often a number of layers of middle-men, who purchase from a variety of smaller collectors (who need the money immediately) and resell in bulk to processors who only deal in large quantities. Those processors sort and treat the recyclables and resell the resulting material to Java to be used in the creation of new products.
The recyclables business is highly competitive because it requires very little capital to get started. The business is also highly dependent on relationships, as often times collectors have agreements with buyers in order to ensure they can sell their materials. These same relationships can also be used to exploit the poorest of the collectors, which I will revisit later.
Thanks to her loan from Kiva (through DINARI), Nanik and her husband are now able to purchase recyclables from small collectors and resell at a higher price, instead of just collecting from the street. This has enabled Nanik to significantly increase her sales, which more than compensates for the lower profit she receives per kilo (due to the cost of purchasing the items instead of collecting them on her own).
Before receiving this loan from Kiva, Nanik and her husband were averaging a profit of Rp350,000 (about $39) per week. With the expansion of their business, their weekly average profit has risen to Rp450,000 to Rp500,000 per week (about $50 to $55). This increased profit has enabled Nanik and her husband to continue to reinvest in their business and pay for the education of their five year old daughter, Rani, who has started kindergarten.
Nanik and her family are living in a home consisting of bits of scrap metal and plywood, in a community with seven other families that do the same occupation (see the photo below). Nanik and the other seven families have an arrangement with the landlord where free rent is exchanged for the right to purchase the recyclables at a price far lower than the market rate. In my opinion, this arrangement contributes to keeping these families in poverty by ensuring that they earn enough to get by, but not enough to get out of poverty. Without savings, Nanik and the other members of her community are forced to sell their products each week in order to provide for their basic needs, instead of saving to move into a home without restrictions. Nanik hopes to be able to continue to increase the profits of her business to a point where she can break out of this cycle and fulfill her dream of someday being able to purchase a home in Java and move her family to be closer to the rest of her family.
What is amazing about Nanik is how spirited she is in the face of such poverty. Throughout our conversation, Nanik smiled and laughed as she glowingly discussed her daughter Rani and her plans to grow her business. As Rani playfully hid behind her mother and peered at me through the strands of Nanik’s hair, Nanik, through the translation of DINARI’s field officer Pastya, happily answered my questions and was amazed when I showed her the profile of her business that was posted on Kiva. She was embarrassed by her photo, but excited that people around the world knew about what she was doing.
When it came time to take a photo to include as part of the journal update, Nanik ran into her room and arranged her hair and chatted happily with her friends (including other Kiva clients) who had gathered around us. She chose to stand by the scale that she used to weigh her materials, and then coyly smiled as I took her photo (below).
Once I showed her the photo on the screen of my digital camera, she rushed to show it to her friends and laughed hysterically when I zoomed in on her face. She then asked to have a picture taken with her daughter, who had never seen her own picture before (below).
After getting a photo taken with Nanik and two other lenders, it was time to say our goodbyes and head off to meet the next client. Although I’ve met with over 50 clients so far, my afternoon with Nanik stands out as a memorable and humbling experience. It’s been a privilege to represent the goodwill of Kiva’s lenders in meetings lenders, especially those as inspiring as Nanik. Her photo is already one of my favorite possessions from this trip, and I hope she will enjoy her copy of the photos as much as I do (she will receive a copy during the next visit from Pastya).