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The Mindful Bunch

Stichting Seva Microfinance Institute in Suriname

Stichting Seva is one of my favorite Kiva field partners because of Suriname’s interesting history and ties to the Netherlands. Suriname is on the northeast coast of South America, population 566,000, and according to Wikipedia, it is “…one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse countries in the world.” Seva was created by the Dutch international foundation, Seva Network, in 2004, as a project to mitigate the poverty of marginalized farmers in Nickerie and Saremacca who cultivate rice and bananas. In 2002, 5,000 workers had been laid off due to the closure of state-supported Surland banana farm, which had been unable to remain competitive in world markets. Both field workers and packing workers (many women) lost their jobs.

According to Kiva’s field-partner page: “Seva’s client base consists of a conservative rural community of mostly East Indian rice farmers that lives by ancient rules. Farming techniques have not changed since the 1970s.” These East Indian farmers, 27 percent of the population, are descended from contract workers who emigrated from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, India, in the late-19th century. Unfortunately, their current situation remains difficult as buyers drive the prices and take their time paying the farmers. Young people leave the farms for the towns, where violence and drugs are rife.

Seva’s loans on Kiva are usually for farming inputs and machinery with a few supporting small businesses. I enjoy re-lending to particular farmers and their families as they repay and re-borrow following a fall and spring planting schedule. These farming loans are usually 8-month, end-of-term at a fairly low 16 percent interest rate. They are post-disbursed, so it is important to both the farmers and the field partner that these loans fully fund.

Seva also stands out due to some important distinctions in the way it lends:

The Seva manager knows all the client farmers and visits them. The field coordinators are themselves farmers. If something goes wrong, the network attempts to help the farmer figure out a solution; hence, the low default rate.

The role of women in Suriname is not contemporary and farming is a male-dominated field. Seva requires that a farmer’s wife co-sign the loan, so that she comprehends the effect the loan will have on her family and participates in the decision-making. One visiting Kiva Fellow observed that the office was managed by two women who boldly refused to discuss lending with a borrower until he returned with his wife.

Seva attempts to introduce innovative, more Earth-friendly farming practices. Per the visiting Kiva Fellow, the field manager himself plants a plot to demonstrate improved methods of fertilizing crops and the desirability of smaller fuel-conserving tractors. The “macho” farmers have a tradition of competing with each other by owning large tractors, and they believe “the status of a rice farmer is related to the size of his tractor.” Seva is attempting to change that misconception.

Seva loans funding now on Kiva:
Click HERE

Seva Kiva FP Page:
Click HERE

Kiva Fellow Nelleke Hennemann’s letter can be found by scrolling down the “Loan Updates” of this loan:
Click HERE

Suriname Map:
Click HERE

Suriname Wikipedia:
Click HERE

Surland Farm history:
Click HERE

Stichting Seva At-A-Glance:
Founded: 2004 Joined Kiva: 2013
As of 03/29/16
Interest rate to borrower: 16% per annum
Paying back: 83 loans, $168,000
Ended: 173 loans, $485,000
Defaults: Rate: 1.36%; Loans: 4

Irene