One Business is Rarely Enough

John Bosco and me in his farm as he proudly holds up his Kiva Profile

Sitting across from John Bosco in the living room of his modest home in rural Uganda, I smiled as he introduced me to his two youngest children. He then told me how he’d used his Kiva loan to purchase fertilizer and a pesticide spray pump to improve his farm. When I asked him if he had any other sources of income he beamed proudly before reviewing his businesses: poultry, pigs, a fish pond, goat trading, and plantain and coffee farming.

At 43 years old, John has no safety net of insurance, unemployment benefits or parents to fall back on. He is the breadwinner for a family that includes six children and to realize his dream for them to graduate university he maintains multiple businesses not only from immediate necessity but also risk management. This “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” mindset towards income has been a recurring theme among borrowers I’ve met.

Christine in front of one of the pens where she keeps chickens

Christine, who has managed a small hotel for 18 years, also runs a restaurant, a farm, and raises animals. The different businesses have all played their part in enabling her to provide for her family during her husband’s illness while educating her six children and making home improvements. Although the businesses don’t have the scale to support her singlehandedly, together they cover costs and limit risk. When one business suffers, as her hotel has over the last year, she leans on other sources of income to meet her needs.

In the self-employed world of Uganda’s rural and urban poor, people continuously invest profits and loans to realize new opportunities. Sometimes this means taking on more of the supply chain as Lovincer did when she expanded beyond transporting plantains to also growing them. At other times it means starting a new business entirely as James did when he purchased a solar powered charger to open a cell phone charging station, supplementing his primary occupation as a dairy distributor.

Loans from Kiva can help people expand their business portfolios to protect from risk such as poor weather, vehicle breakdowns, insect infestations, and demand drops to ensure that if one business suffers, their dreams do not collapse with it. This strategy helped John Bosco pay for his two oldest daughters to graduate university, who now work for Red Cross and Save the Children. To help others like John and Christine achieve their goals make a loan on Kiva today!

About the author

Matt Ramirez

Usually the first (and only) to laugh at his own jokes, Matt values the power of humor and extroversion in connecting with people. He became interested in microfinance following a year in Malawi where he saw the ability for small business investments to have far reaching, positive effects and is excited to join this cause as a Kiva Fellow in Uganda. A Texas native, Matt’s first international experience came when he lived in Mexico City during elementary school. He graduated from NYU with a Psychology degree and Pre-Business minor before joining PepsiCo where he held roles in finance, strategy, and marketing. Looking to live abroad and work on a cause he was passionate about, Matt took a yearlong sabbatical to volunteer with Grassroot Soccer in Malawi where he helped implement HIV educational programs and community HIV testing events. He then co-founded Teen Support Line, a free phone counseling service for adolescents living with HIV in Malawi. Matt loves to travel and engage with new cultures and has spent time in Spain, Latin America, and southern Africa. Outside of work, he enjoys writing, soccer, and incessant movie/television quoting.