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Solar lamps in El Salvador. Loans that are making the difference

One popular critic to microfinance is it promotes businesses that don´t bring value. For instance, giving a loan to a woman to start a tomato shop beside 10 other tomato shops. Instead of creating value, it divides it.

This is why one of the biggest bets from Kiva are green loans. Under this category you can have solar lamps, ecological kitchen and other type of products that aim to improve families standard of life.

I was not sure of the effectiveness of this type of loans until I met….. He has a very humble family that lives in the coast of El Salvador and he is a fisherman. One day the loan officer told him about a solar lamp that could take energy from the sun and turn it into light and electricity. After serious discussions with his wife they decided to risk and buy it.

3 months after they bought the solar lamp and with his own words: “It is the best purchase we have ever made, it has changed our lives”.

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Before they used candles, which apart from being expensive and dangerous, (they live in a wooden cottage), they did not bring light enough. With this solar lamp, children can now do their homework after the sunset and potential robbers are also espantados. One other curious thing that has changed is now his mother (grandma) wants to go and have dinner with ner grandchildren. Before she did not want to go because she said there was not enough light and you could not see. Now she goes whenever she can.

Moreover, they have found a way to get income from the lamp. As this lamp enables charging cell phones, they offer to their neighbors recharge their batteries at a fair price, bringing advance to their community and saving them time.

These last Christmas have been the first ones with proper light. And this big change hasn´t cost them at all, because the monthly expense in candles thay had is now their monthly fee to Integral and Kiva. After one year, their loan will be fully repaid.

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Kiva. Loans that change lives.


About the author

Juan Barbed

Ever since I can remember, I imagined myself suit up, wearing a tie and working in the stock market. I got my Finance and Business Management Degree in Deusto University and ESCP-Paris, and I achieved my objective: I joined a Wealth Management boutique. But after a couple of years of tough fight with European financial markets (especially with Spanish one) I had the opportunity to participate in “Imagine”, an innovation and entrepreneurship program in Silicon Valley. Visiting companies like IDEO, Google, lots of start-ups like Waze and of course Kiva, opened my mind and made me realize my passion was helping the poor and the moment to do what I loved was now. That´s why I decided to quit my job and to live a life experience doing 3 Kiva fellowships in 3 different continents and languages. But after the 2nd one, this unique opportunity appeared and my dream of being part of Kiva team came true. Keep on dreaming with Kiva!