They write to us from Kiva
Greetings from Colombia!
Thank you to everyone for your generous and continued support of Kiva and our Field Partners around the world. I am thrilled to be sending you all an update from Medellin, Colombia. I am currently two months into my fellowship, and have been working here with Interactuar, one of Kiva's larger partners in the region. I can confidently state that your contributions make a significant impact in the lives of many individuals striving to build a better future for themselves and their families.
Among Kiva partners, Interactuar stands out for its commitment to providing holistic services to aspiring entrepreneurs, and for its geographic reach throughout Colombia. Here at Interactuar's headquarters in Medellin, a full staff of educators and lecturers offer courses ranging from technical specializations (e.g. culinary arts, dairy production, and others) to generalized curricula in business management. Interactuar even teaches its own certificate program, known as the MBA ("Método Base de Aceleración"), which helps students develop skills in business management and market entry. Students can choose to take a generalized MBA or pursue a specialized agricultural program aimed at farmers. Particularly successful entrepreneurs are recognized each year at an annual awards event, the Famiempresario.
During my time in Colombia, I've been impressed with Interactuar's regional footprint and the diversity of borrowers it serves. Interactuar has more than 30 offices spread throughout 4 of Colombia's departments, with its headquarters located in Antioquia, a department in the central northwestern part of the country. These offices may be as small as 3-4 employees, but every single one works hard to support their borrowers. Borrowers, particularly those in rural regions, may not live near the Interactuar satellite offices. Loan officers will therefore sometimes travel more than an hour each way by motorbike to conduct a single visit in the field. As part of my fellowship, I interviewed 5 borrowers in the northwest corner of Antioquia, in the region of Urabá. These interviews gave me the opportunity to learn the individual stories of Kiva loan recipients and hear about their experiences when it comes to growing small businesses.
While in Urabá I met with borrowers engaged in a variety of activities, including fruit cultivation, poultry farming, fishing and the sale of shoes and groceries. The task of building a business is not easy and requires perseverance and hard work. Take Luis Fernando as an example. When Luis requested his first Kiva loan, he used the funds to invest in his poultry business on a parcel of rented property. He was able to sell that batch of hens but has since had to relocate to land owned by his family. This property is not accessible by road and is, therefore, harder to reach—Luis must cross three rivers to get there, doing so via garrucha, a system somewhat akin to a hand-held zipline. Despite this difficulty, Luis has persisted with a new poultry operation and has begun cultivating cacao and yucca to diversify his income. He even plans to install a small aquaculture operation with his brother on the same land. During our conversation Luis noted that his Kiva funds helped him to accelerate his operation and learn how to manage a business, giving him the momentum to continue with new investments.
Stories like Luis' reinforce the steps taken by Field Partners to reach borrowers in need. They also emphasize how important Kiva funds are to loan recipients, who often confront difficult circumstances in their efforts to build a business and earn a sustainable income. Please know that the funding you provide is key to Interactuar's mission and is reaching people in need. Over my time here I have heard many times over that borrowers would not have been able to continue working, if it wasn't for their loan.
Kiva Fellow – KF35