Ester is the poster child for how microfinance can grow small businesses. A mother of three and owner of a small farm in central Kenya, she raises dairy cows, grows vegetables and makes cement water pipes with a handful of employees. Many of her businesses were funded by loans from people she has never met, through a Web site called Kiva.org.
Kiva is a nonprofit based in San Francisco that allows individual lenders from all over the world to make zero-percent interest loans of as little as $25 to micro-entrepreneurs in the developing world. In return, lenders are repaid on a monthly basis, and receive at least one journal update on how their contribution has impacted the loan recipient. To date, the Kiva community has raised more than $75 million in funds from 500,000 unique lenders with only about a 2 percent default rate.
Kiva makes these transactions possible by partnering with microfinance institutions, or “field partners,” on the ground in some 44 countries.
For Kiva’s field partners, posting loan requests online and writing updates for lenders can be tedious work. That’s where the Kiva fellowship program comes in.
Oliver joined Devex in late 2008 as an international development correspondent and researcher. He previously served as a microfinance fellow for Kiva in Kenya and Uganda. During his tenure, he worked with Kiva’s field partners to improve their operations and governance. Oliver holds a master's in business from the College of William & Mary.