In December, my niece Lydia Gorham loaned $25 to a group of small business owners in Nansana Uganda. She made the loan through KIVA, a unique microlending agency that matches up individuals with small amounts to lend with would-be entrepreneurs in developing countries who are trying to start or expand small businesses.
The group Lydia loaned her money to has started a variety of small enterprises including prepared food, charcoal selling, farming, brick making, cement reselling and several other businesses. The group is known as the Teddy Kigoli group. Since I’m living in Nansana, they are literally just down the road from where I’m staying. So I decided to visit the people that borrowed Lydia’s $25 to see how they are getting on.
The Kiva funds in Nansana are administered by a local non-profit development agency, Building Resources Across Communities, or BRAC. BRAC’s Nansana Field Representative Catherine Atumanya handles accounts for nearly 500 clients. For efficiency, loan recipients are assigned to groups according to neighborhood. Catherine visits each group once a week to collect weekly installments on the loans, and to help with problems or questions that arise. So Monday morning, I accompanied Catherine on her rounds in a semi rural neighborhood about a mile from Kisa Primary School where I am teaching. The Teddy Kigoli group assembled in the front yard at the home of one of the members, Mutebi Malongo who has 7 children, cares for a niece, and has another child on the way. Mutebi cooks food at home to sell at a nearby roadside stand.
At the meeting, Catherine went over everybody’s account books and collected the installments and interest from each member. She then introduced me to the group and I explained my purpose, and I passed around a picture of Lydia so people could have a first hand look at one of their investors.
After the meeting we visited the homes of two other members. Mukasu Nakadu is a single mother of 7. She was not at home, but we got a chance to meet six of her seven children.
Nakadu buys a 50kilo bag of Charcoal for 22,000 shillings (about $13) and resells it in small quantities. Her profit is about 1,000 shillings on each 50 kilo bag. She used the funds from the KIVA loan to get started in the business. Another member, Jennifer Nalubwama makes kabalagala, tasty little banana pancakes, and supplies them to small retailers in the neighborhood.
We also visited a member of another group, Annette Nakigala and her three children. Annette is a charcoal reseller, but also obtained a loan to buy some piglets which she is raising.
Catherine explained that for many of her clients, their businesses provide the only cash income, and in some cases the total means of support. Most families around here raise part or all of their own food. But they still need a steady flow of cash for school fees, and to buy clothing and other necessities. For more information about KIVA, see http://kiva.org.
Photos of some of the people in this story can be found in the Gallery.