As the Microfinance Mundo Turns: The Money Tree & the Family Tree
By Susan Arthur, KF8 (Kiva Fellow 8th Class) in Nicaragua
Episodio 3: Doña Cony plans ahead.
In May, she planted a granadilla fruit tree in her back courtyard in Managua. It looks more like a vine, and it stands about five feet two inches tall, about the height of Doña Cony.
Granadillas Equals “Dineritos”
“It’s my plant that is going to bring me dineritos — monies,” says the 59-year-old wife and mother rolling her thumb back and forth over her finger tips to show the universal sign for money.
The yellow fruit has a floral scent, is oblong, the largest of the passionfruits –about the size of an American football — and weighs more than one pound. Currently it sells for 20 cordobas (USD $1) each, which is half the cost of a cab fare in Managua or half the price of lunch. Not only will Doña Cony sell the fruit, but she also will make homemade, unsweetened granadilla juice at her new restaurant which she hopes to open and operate from her front porch next year. (See Microfinance Mundo Episodes 1, 2 and 2.5 for more background on Doña Cony’s room rental, ice cream, and catering businesses.)
The Family Tree
Married to Don Isaac, who has worked as a driver for the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN) for 28 years and who plans to retire in two years, Doña Cony has no health insurance. Their 40-year-old son, Jorge, lives with them and is in his last year studying political science at the private Hispano Americana University.
Their 32-year-old daughter, Jenny, attended the University of Centroamerica, now a private university, where she studied translation and Teaching English as a Second Language. Jenny was forced to drop out in her third year when the university raised its fees from $20 a month to $80 a month. Because she could not find work, Jenny and her husband emigrated to Barcelona six years ago.
Like many Nicaraguans, Doña Cony and her family receive remittances from their daughter. Remittances represent more than 12 percent of Nicaragua’s gross domestic product. In 2008, 40 percent of Nicaraguans received more than $750 million in remittances, according to a recent report published by the Impact of the Global Financial Crisis on Latin American and Caribbean Microfinance Institutions.“I don’t take advantage of my daughter,” stresses Doña Cony. “I want her to be independent and have her own life, and I don’t expect her to finance the family.” Her daughter works as a home health aide and nanny in Spain and sends money so that Doña Cony can have an annual mammogram. Doña Cony’s mother died of breast cancer, and Doña Cony has had five benign cysts removed from her own breast. In Managua, a mammogram costs 650 cordobas (USD $32.50).
Jenny also pays for her brother’s education which costs $35 a month, not including text books and photocopying of pages from the books he cannot afford to purchase. She wants him to be able to finish his degree which she was not able to do.
Jenny sent the family a used laptop which is missing a battery and pays for their wireless Internet connection. The family keeps in touch by calling each other every few weeks using Yahoo’s free Internet phone service with camera. During their most recent conversation the family members in Nicaragua winced when they heard about and saw the shiner and stitches that Jenny’s husband received from an accidental blow he suffered while practicing boxing at the gym.
How will Doña Cony and her family deal with the economic blows delivered by the falling world economy?
A recent study by the Inter-American Dialogue shows that in 2009 immigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean will remit US$64 billion, down from US$69 billion in 2008. About one million Latin American households who previously received remittances will not receive money in 2009, according to the IAD study, and another four million will receive 10 percent less. These households will lose a significant source of earnings ranging from 7 percent to 65 percent of all income. Nicaragua is one of the most affected countries because the decline in money transfers will equal nearly 1 percent of the country’s GDP.
Will Doña Cony’s daughter be able to continue sending money to the family? Will Doña Cony seek credit for her restaurant from one of Kiva’s field partners in Nicaragua? Will she apply at CEPRODEL? What does she have to do to get a loan? Will she qualify? Stay tuned for future episodes of “As the Microfinance Mundo Turns.”