What if Kiva had Green Microloans?

By Ashley Nelsen KF7/8 DR and Nicaragua

If Kiva had green microloans would you support one?  I am different from the “traditional” Kiva Fellow in the sense that I am spending my last semester of graduate school working full time as a fellow while researching the possibility of using microfinance to fund green or environmental microloans for my thesis.  Ideally, green microloans would work to improve income generation, health, and environmental conditions of the world’s poor.

The world’s poor interact on a daily basis with their natural surroundings, and depend on the natural resources their environment provides them for their livelihoods.  This places the poor at a higher risk for environmental changes such as pollution, and climate change.  Unfortunately, many developing countries lack the financial capital necessary to provide services that often times cost more to implement than the revenue they will produce from those services.

This is where green microloans enter.

Green microloans could include solar energy, water purification, improved cook stoves- the ideas limitless.  Kiva could partner with local NGOs and MFIs to create a similar person to person lending system that incorporates a strategy to provide clean technology for entrepreneurs in developing nations.  When microfinance merges with clean technology, internet lenders temporarily subsidize initial costs of these projects. Subsidizing this initial cost allows borrowers to participate in projects that are beneficial for their business, health, and the environment.  Borrowers would receive both technical training and financial planning education while they work to pay back their loans.

A recent article published by The New York Times estimates that “black carbon,  smoke,  soot,  and carbon emissions  from primitive cookstoves is responsible for 18 percent of the planet’s warming, compared with 40 percent for carbon dioxide (Rosenthal, 2009).”  A similar study estimated that black carbon might account for as much as half of Arctic warming!  Why not provide loans for improved cookstoves?  We would supporting the switch to clean technology that can decrease black carbon, improve respiratory health, and decrease deforestation.

Nicaragua- Firewood for a family of three for three months.

Nicaragua- Firewood for a family of three for six months.

Environmental loans will not be for every entrepreneur, but for some Kiva entrepreneurs there is undoubtedly an overlooked opportunity.  One such instance is my former neighbor in the Dominican Republic who sells ice cream out of a cooler on the back of his motorcycle.  The DR, infamous for its power outages, left my neighbor several times with melting ice cream.  Could a solar panel or an inverter have protected his ice cream, his sole form of income generation?  I think so.

What do you think?  Could Kiva do green microloans?  Would you fund a green loan?

Help my thesis– leave me a comment- or come watch me present my findings the end of August 2009 at Monterey Institute of International Studies Monterey, CA.

Rosenthal, Elisabeth. By Degrees- Third-World Stove Soot Is Target in Climate Fight. The New York Times.


April 16, 2009.


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