The Mindful Bunch
Kiva Success Stories
Rudradew is 26 years old and recently married. He still lives with his parents and does rice cultivation together with his father. With the support of Seva MFI Rudradew bought a second-hand pickup truck which he use to provide transportation services during harvest season. He has repaid this loan fully and now he wants to save for a tractor. Therefore he has expanded his rice areas and applied for a new loan of SRD 10,000 to purchase fertilizers and pesticides.
This loan is part of Seva’s effort to reach marginalized rice farmers who are excluded from Suriname’s traditional banking system. This type of loan is designed to help agricultural entrepreneurs become self sustainable. This is especially important in Suriname, where microfinance is limited. These loans provide farmers with the opportunity to thrive in a country where rural and agricultural businesses are considered to be too risky for commercial loans.
Stichting Seva Micro Finance Institute (Seva MFI) is an international organization that promotes entrepreneurship among poor and marginalized communities in developing countries. Seva MFI offers loans that enable farmers to purchase pesticides, fertilizer, farming tools and equipment to expand their farm plots and boost their incomes. In 2012, Seva MFI has disbursed over 650 loans to farmers in Suriname.
We wanted to let you know that Rudradew has another loan posted on Kiva! Here’s the description of their new loan:
- Rudradew is very pleased with the help from Kiva lenders and thanks them a lot for making it possible for him to save money for a new tractor. With the tractor he can work in his fields and also in fields of other farmers. This can give him an extra income for his family.
- Rudradew repaid his loan on time and fully to Kiva lenders and asks them to help him once more with his rice cultivation so he can save more money for his tractor. The savings from last season were not enough to buy the tractor.
You can see Rudradew’s new loan by visiting HERE.
The last 6 weeks I spent with Seva MFI in Nieuwe Nickerie, a new Kiva partner in a new Kiva country, Suriname. I freshly arrived from Africa and thought I had seen it all.
Seva has a seasonal loan cycle that has two busy periods, in fall and in spring, just after rice planting has started. I arrived smack in the middle of one of those hectic periods in which Seva’s small office is full of clients that come in to collect their loans. Observing this process, I started to notice what makes Seva a truly different partner from what I have seen before.
Seva’s client base consists of a conservative rural community of mostly East Indian rice farmers, that lives by ancient rules. The measures of success for a Nickerie rice farmer are longstanding and simple; at the end of his life he should have his own land and house, a car and a tractor, no debts and lavish weddings for his daughters. However, times are changing. Rice farming is increasingly competitive, as Suriname does not support its farmers like many other rice farming countries do and farming techniques have not changed since the 1970’s. In Nickerie, children are educated but all move to the capital, and in Nickerie the prevalence of drugs and alcohol has grown. The community values are threatened and the autonomy of the rice farmers is at stake, especially since they have to sell to a limited group of buyers that keep the price high and have a habit of paying late in the season. These farmers do not qualify for a loan from the traditional banks.
Here is where Seva steps in. The fertilizer loans make the farmers independent from having to buy fertilizer from the rice wholesalers at the time they sell their crop. Moreover, slowly and silently, Seva also prepares the community to survive through introducing modern ways of living and farming.
1) Emancipation of women
Seva requires all loans to be co-signed by the spouses. Observing the effect this has is a true joy. Couples come in dressed at their best, with the men in clean shirts and the women wearing beautiful gold jewelry. What used to be a macho man’s business now becomes an equal dialogue were the women become fully aware of the impact the loan has on their family. Those men that want to escape this transparency and come alone are sent home or to their car in which the wife is often left waiting. The girls in the office, Rashrie and Eshna, radiate “girl power” at those moments, when they politely but determined require the farmer to produce his wife…
2) No defaults
Seva has never in its whole existence had a defaulted loan! A clever use of Arwien Nibar’s, Seva’s Nickerie manager, personal connections with the local banks and the consultation of a strong network of local field coordinators (farmers themselves) prevent overindebtedness from the very beginning. And if something goes wrong after all, the same network gives out early warning signals and a personal solution is found. Arwien Nibar knows all his clients and regularly drops by. No farmer in Nieuwe Nickerie has been shamed into not being able to repay his loan, many have benefited and seen their living standards improve every year.
3) Low profile
Seva does not advertise and has a tiny office that is difficult to find. I was discouraged to accept the invitation to appear on local television to talk about Kiva and Seva. Still, over 30% of all rice farmers bank with Seva, purely through word of mouth. Seva considers the effort that farmers need to make to find them an important part of the selection process
4) Innovation by example
A Nickerie farmer will not easily be told how to farm his fields, conservative and proud as they are. They hold on to methods that have served them for decades. So Arwien Nibar chose to lead by example. He uses his own fields to experiment with different techniques. He started to fertilize his fields before and after planting with two different kinds of fertilizer. A stupid way in most eyes at first, since who wants to throw fertilizer in water were there are no seeds? Now, a few seasons later, 90% of farmers have converted to this method. Why? Arwien produces 110 bales per hectare, where most farmers only produced 60 to 70. The next innovation on his list is using a much smaller and energy conservative tractor, an interesting move, since the status of a rice farmer is directly related to the size of his tractor…
Seva’s plans to serve their borrowers and community start here, and get much more ambitious and innovative.
I am deeply grateful for the weeks spent with Seva and encourage you to keep a keen eye on this MFI. There are still a few loans raising at the moment, but in April there will be a whole bunch more when next season starts!
Kiva Fellow, Suriname