By Kelsey Quam, KF12 Ecuador
Last week I traveled with a loan officer to an agricultural community in rural Ecuador. In my pocket was a list of several questions sent from various lenders throughout the world for the borrowers to whom they had made loans. I was testing a new tool created by Jeff Zira (KF7) that seeks to deepen the connections between lenders and borrowers. It’s easy- Kiva Fellows send out a message to lenders a few days before they plan to visit a specific borrower or community. Lenders can then reply with a question or message for the borrower to whom they have made a loan. Kiva Fellows then schedule a visit with the borrower, answer the questions, and send a message back to the lender.
Over the course of the meeting, I conversed with the borrowers and jotted down their responses to the questions that had been sent by lenders. Since this loan group consists entirely of agricultural farmers, many questions sent by lenders pertained not just to the borrower to whom the question was directed, but to the entire 15-person loan group. For example, one question asked “what machines, tools, or animals do you use to farm your land, and how do you transport your produce to the market?” To my delight, borrowers in the loan group began to chime in about their agricultural practices in the region, methods of growing corn, potatoes, and wheat, and organic agricultural practices. Soon a dynamic dialogue was soon rolling among the loan group.The borrowers decided that describing their agricultural practices wasn´t enough. Since we were close to their houses, they invited me to see their farming tools and learn about farming methods. The photo to the left shows a trilladora, a machine that is used to harvest wheat. Trilladoras are commonly seen in wheat fields throughout this region during the wheat harvest months of August and September. The asadon, a small foot plow, is also used in agriculture to till soil. The telera and yugo (not pictured) are wooden instruments that are fastened to an ox along with a third piece called a timon. Many borrowers take loans to invest in these very tools and become more productive in their agricultural work.
To complete the visit, a report will be sent through a journal update to the lenders who support each borrower. Hopefully lenders will have a better understanding of the livelihoods of the borrowers they have chosen to lend to, their daily life working in the agricultural sector, and how the discussion relates to farming in lenders´ home countries. Above all, I hope that the lender-borrower dialogue keeps rolling.
Thanks for sending questions, lenders!