this is not aisle 3

By Shereef Zaki, KF9, Perú

One of my first posts was titled ‘recession proof’’ in which I described the resilience of micro-businesses and the integrity of micro-lending. This time around, I want to detail a theme I had only painted with large brushstrokes.

Although EDPYME Alternativa’s borrowers are scattered throughout the region, I live in Chiclayo and it has become the backdrop and the context of my life. To me, one of the most fascinating parts of this small city is the dearth of big box stores. In their absence exists a constant buzz of small-scale commerce.

Let me describe this vibrant economic landscape. In the center of the city, around the main plaza, there is a mixture of restaurants and shops devoted to clothing and electronics (especially cell phones). As one ventures further from the center, the streets become organized by economic themes.

A shop selling paint or glass on Avenida Cuglievan Another shop selling glass on Avenida Cuglievan A string of shops selling paint on Avenida Cuglievan An endless stretch of candy shops on Bolognesi selling King Kong* A row of salons on Avenida Arica Four corners and four pharmacies at the intersection of Balta and Pedro Ruiz In the Mercado Modelo – one of the largest semiformal markets in Perú – there is a seemingly endless amount of organized commerce. For example, the footwear section

Although that string of stores on Cuglievan is far less efficient than Home Depot, it encourages competition, diversity of selection and keeps more people employed. One of the strangest paradoxes of a modern economy is the contradiction of scale: with efficiency at a large scale less people can do more. Progress becomes self-defeating if people do not have the jobs and incomes to keep on buying from the big box stores!

The hectic flow of social and economic interactions in Chiclayo keeps people interacting with one another, asking for advice and building a community. And on a personal level, it is way more fun to walk through high energy markets and themed streets asking where to find that one little thing than to navigate down the well-marked aisle 3.

*King Kong is the most rich dessert imaginable: a layer of thick caramel, a layer of candied fruit preserves (generally pineapple) and a layer of cake – cut into rectangles, circles or squares


Shereef Zaki is serving as a Kiva Fellow working with the new field partner EDPYME Alternativa in Chiclayo, Perú

To view currently fundraising loans from EA click here

To become a member of the “Friends of EDPYME Alternativa” lending team click here


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