Friday, May 26, 2006

The Bush

When Kiva said they wanted to work in rural areas that must have been only an initial roll out because they have pushed out beyond the rural areas into the bush. ICT projects often refer to reaching the last mile and even the last meter. Kiva has achieved last millimeter. We are outside of Nairobi working with the womens economic empowermen consort WEEC and had the opportunity yesterday to visit some of their Kiva businesses. From the main office we (Jedidah, Moses, Carl, Jon, Cale, David, Daniel) drove 40km away in a small van out into Maasai territory. We drove until the paved road ended and then continued on a dirt road until it ended then we got out and began walking. We walked along an existing trail until the trail ended and then we just followed David (a WEEC microfinance officer) into the bush. We trusted that he knew where he was going although we could not see any establishment on the horizon. We collectively decided that this was certainly not rural because in the rural areas children run towards the car and what we experienced were children running away from our car.

A horrendous drought last year in Kenya devastated the Maasai who lost large numbers of cattle and Kiva loans are allowing them to rebuild their herds. David told us that his fathers stock went from 100 to 3. One Maasai Kiva loan recipient told us that her business was doing very well and that two of her daughters were currently attending university, studying medicine, and not married. Jedidah was particularly thrilled with this news as Maasai girls are often married off very early and are not able to attend school.

Those of us with cameras politely asked to take pictures and at one point when I pulled out my camera Joyce, a Maasai woman, pulled out a cellphone. She had full coverage. Hopefully the video will tell the tale of the tape.

We saw the earliest wildebeest visitors to the area who will continue to arrive and push into Tanzania. Beautiful animals. The trip really made clear some of the struggles that MFI's are facing in terms of reporting the details of the businesses to the web. David typically does this visit from his office 17km away by bicycle and stores the update material on paper until it he make a trip to the head office on Mondays to deliver it where it can then be posted by Herbert to the web if there is a connection. Otherwise the story is transferred to a flashdisk and taken into Nairobi an hour away where it is uploaded at an internet cafe where the connection is fast enough to upload larger photo files without an unnecessarily long wait.

Cellphones are emerging as an appropriate tool to facilitate the MFI's work with Kiva and distances and decentralized operations are hurdles that we will have to tackle in order to create a reliable and affordable solution.


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