Dear Sandy Rowley,
Thank you for supporting entrepreneurs in Nicaragua. This journal has a video! Check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wi2VF_ipJjU
I’m excited to be sending you this update from the field in Nicaragua.
My name is Meg Gray and I have been working as a Kiva Fellow with Kiva’s field partner CEPRODEL in Managua from the beginning of October until last week. As you may know, all borrowers’ profiles are posted to Kiva’s website by local microfinance institutions (MFIs) such as CEPRODEL, who distribute loans on the ground to borrowers and are responsible for collecting repayments.
Since you have supported at least one (and hopefully many) CEPRODEL entrepreneurs, I want to start by telling you more about CEPRODEL and the entrepreneurs it works with. Founded in 1990, the Centro de Promoción del Desarrollo Local y Superación de la Pobreza, or CEPRODEL for short, now has 16 field offices and over 40 loan officers, who work with over 13,000 entrepreneurs throughout Western Nicaragua. The role of a field partner on Kiva.org is to provide a connection between Kiva.org and the individual entrepreneurs that you see on the website. Without field partners, it would be impossible for Kiva to reach so many entrepreneurs in so many different parts of the world. The microfinance organizations (MFIs) like CEPRODEL who become Kiva Field Partners are essential because they are knowledgeable about existing local needs and already have systems in place for finding clients, distributing loans, and collecting repayments. The benefits of such local knowledge were constantly shining through as I watched loan officers counsel clients on everything from postponing the sale of a cow because of the low market price for beef to the merits of cement versus cinderblock walls. In short, Kiva’s field partners make the whole Kiva process possible.
The Kiva entrepreneurs I met while working with CEPRODEL run the gamut.
They are storeowners, ice cream makers, farmers, motorcycle repairmen, hammock weavers, bakers, artisans, cattlemen, and more. I am grateful that they opened up to me and shared both their successes and the challenges facing their businesses. In general, it felt like a challenging time for entrepreneurs in Nicaragua. At least half of the clients I spoke to mentioned “la crisis” or “la situación”
which are local shorthand for the world wide economic crisis. Though symptoms are beginning to ease in the US, the aftershocks are still reverberating through the Nicaraguan economy. Remittances (money sent to Nicaragua from relatives living abroad), which account for about 12% of the Nicaraguan GDP, are way down. The cost of basic food is soaring. A countrywide drought, which is causing foot shortages, has exacerbated this problem. When asked about the difficulties facing their businesses many CEPRODEL clients responded like Juana Solorzano did when she told me that business is not good right now.
Juana runs a small restaurant and her sales are way down because people don’t have any money to spend, she says. For example, the sale of cooked plantains, a Nicaraguan staple, from her restaurant has dropped from around 125 plantains per weekend to roughly 30 since the crisis began.
Despite the hard times, I met many inspiring entrepreneurs who have used the opportunity of receiving a loan to improve their lives and the lives of their families. Marlon Gutierrez is a good natured and talkative man who runs a pulpería, which is a small general store, in Managua. As we chatted he explained that he used his first loan from CEPRODEL to fix up his house, but now he uses each loan (he is on his 4th) to invest in and grow his business and with the additional profits he is slowly fixing up his house to improve the lives of his wife and three children. Aurelia Hernandez, another CEPRODEL client, makes tejadas, which are thinly sliced fried plantains, and sells them outside a local factory. She lives in a small house with her husband, 6 children, and 5 grandchildren. As she walked me around her house, I counted 5 rooms including the open-air kitchen. Every wall was a patchwork of new and old cinderblocks and Aurelia proudly pointed at the new as she explained how the loans had allowed her to make her house much more livable for her family. She is optimistic that loans will help her expand and diversify her business in the future and help her earn enough to replace her roof which at the moment has several holes in it. Marlon and Aurelia are just a few examples of the inspiring CEPRODEL clients that I met.
They, like so many others, are working hard to make the most of their Kiva loans.
I can truly say that working at CEPRODEL has been an amazing experience.
Having the opportunity to meet so many inspiring entrepreneurs was a privilege. To share this experience with you, I put together a short video of some of the Kiva borrowers I met. These clips were taken as the borrowers were working and I hope they will bring to life the businesses, people, and stories that make up Kiva’s field partner CEPRODEL.