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It started with a single loan. Now refugee Mutasem runs several businesses to support his family.

Along with two horses, a flock of sheep and a big family, Mutasem maintains multiple thriving businesses in the ancient village of Kafr Qaddyum in the northern West Bank.

Between tilling land, tending livestock, and selling yogurt and cheese, the 41 year-old entrepreneur has achieved a promising life for himself and his family.

But building this modest enterprise took time—and the support of loans funded by Kiva lenders.

With a loan from Kiva, Mutasem was able to grow his businesses and provide for his family.

Multiple loans, multiple businesses

With his first loan, Mutasem bought a horse and tilling equipment to plow the fields surrounding the village, some of them among the area’s historic olive groves that have great significance to the Palestinian people. With his savings, he was able to purchase another horse and take on more jobs working the land of his ancestors.

As that endeavor grew, Mutasem and his wife, Sammar, saw an opportunity to take out another Kiva loan in Sammar’s name. After this loan was funded through by Kiva lenders, they purchased a flock of 20 sheep that produce milk, cheese, and yogurt that helps feed the couple’s seven children and provides income from the local market.

"I have—praise be to God—sheep and horses. I even built a barn.”

“I work during the daytime when it’s plowing season, and when I come back [in the evenings] I take care of my sheep,” says Mutasem proudly, adding that Sammar helps tend the flock along with their kids who are old enough to assist.

Tending livestock is just one of Mutasem's many business ventures.

It’s a far better lifestyle than his previous one as a construction worker, when he had to leave home and travel long distances to earn money for the family.

“Sometimes I would spend a whole week or two out at work,” he recalls.

“Now, I have—praise be to God—sheep and horses. I even built a barn.”

See Mutasem share his story here:

A refugee on ancestral lands

As Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Mutasem and his family live and work in a area of continuous conflict that often lacks basic infrastructure. Yet the enterprising patriarch upholds his familial roots. “Although occupation has seized some regions, caused us obstacles, and been trying to keep life tight on us, we are still firm on our lands,” he says.

He extols the natural landscape of Kafr Qaddyum, its village established 3,000 years ago and believed to have been inhabited as far back as the Bronze Age, according to archaeological evidence. Olive groves make up 80 percent of the arable land around the village and are the main source of income for many Palestinian families. While a small amount is made into soap, 93% percent of all olives harvested are processed into olive oil.

 "I didn't go to school growing up. I want to secure my daughters with a good future. Nowadays, a woman's weapon is her degree!"

Kafr Qaddyum is an ancient village filled with lush landscapes.

Read more: Meet Malik: a 22-year old refugee with a small cafe and big dreams

Mutasem says the most glorious season is when it’s time to harvest the olives, though the views and weather of his home remain pleasing throughout the year.

“Everyone admires Kafr Qaddyum’s beauty,” he says. “Its fertile soil, its mountains, its canyons, and its people!”

Support from the field

Mutasem secured the loans to build his business through FATEN, a trusted Kiva Field Partner founded in 1999 to support entrepreneurs in Palestine. Originally focused on women in marginalized communities, the organization has expanded its services to rural farmers and students to help reduce poverty and support financial independence. FATEN serves over 500 sites, including refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza, with 270 employees spread across 35 physical locations and one virtual branch that allows borrowers to apply for loans remotely. The organization offers a range of microfinance services, including loans for:

  • Agriculture
  • Small businesses
  • Education
  • Housing costs
  • Renewable energy
  • COVID-19 Emergency Assistance

Related: Kiva partners in Gaza and the West Bank go the extra mile to empower borrowers

“My business has become bigger"

For Mutasem, the ability to take out a loan, repay it, then borrow more capital has helped create a foundation that supports his family and continues to expand.

“My business has become bigger with the help of FATEN,” avows Mutasem. “The FATEN organization has helped me with many things, and I respect them and thank them for their treatment and help.”

Expanding the impact of Mutasem's loans

Mutasem’s story serves as an example of how a single Kiva loan can create a cycle of prosperity for a family. By leveraging that first loan into a second one, he and Summar are able to sustain multiple sources of income, support their children and help their neighbors by giving away surplus milk and cheese. 

Their success has also shown them that growth and security are possible and have allowed them to plan for an even brighter future for his six daughters and one son. Mutasem says his ambition is to grow his income even more with capital from another microloan.

“I mean to improve my business by increasing my sheep herd; instead of 20 sheep they would be 50,” he explains.

His focus is on securing an education for all of his children. "I didn't go to school growing up. I want to secure my daughters with a good future. Nowadays, a woman's weapon is her degree!"

“In the long run, I’m looking to… achieve my daughters’ dreams and secure them with all their needs and demands, including going to college and getting their degrees.

“I want to be able to provide them with all that without seeking anybody’s help.”

For a refugee family like Mutasem’s, that possibility all begins with a single loan.

About the author

Jessica Leigh Lebos

Jessica Leigh Lebos is Kiva's Senior Storyteller and an award-winning writer based in Savannah, Georgia, USA. Covering social justice, cultural equity, sustainable growth, financial literacy, and always celebrating others' success, she is thrilled to help share Kiva's mission—and the stories of the people it connects.