Farewell from Sri Lanka
By Cheney Wells, KF 11
Finishing up my Kiva fellowship in Sri Lanka was a bittersweet experience. My relationship with both Kiva, and with their field partner, the ever-efficient BRAC, has been a positive one. I believe I made tangible contributions to the relationship between the two organizations, and through those efforts, learned a great deal. I enhanced some of the hard technical skills that I had expected to improve on the job (financial reports, Excel), and also had the chance to learn valuable soft-skills that I had not anticipated needing when I set off for Sri Lanka to work as a Kiva fellow.
One soft skill I had the opportunity to practice was the process of negotiation. When I arrived to Sri Lanka, I did not anticipate having to try to facilitate an agreement with the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) in order to get approval for a continuation of an agreement signed last year between Kiva, BRAC Sri Lanka, and the CBSL. My final month of work in Sri Lanka, however, ended up being dedicated almost entirely to trying to get a renewal of that approval. Through several meetings with the CBSL and with other parties, I did my best to try to reach a new agreement between the three parties. It is unclear if those efforts will bear positive results, but I am proud of the work of Kiva and BRAC Sri Lanka to get renewed Central Bank approval.
Thus the future of BRAC Sri Lanka remains uncertain. There are a great number of borrowers here who already received Kiva loans, and they are now in the process of using those loans for their businesses, and making repayments on the loans. There are not, however, any new borrowers being added to Kiva’s Sri Lanka portfolio, due to the aforementioned problems with the Central Bank here in Sri Lanka.
It is of course difficult to measure the exact impact Kiva has had here in Sri Lanka. Certain tools do exist in the field of development to try to monitor and evaluate the impact of development programs, and Kiva has in fact begun to do so in many countries with CERISE, to continue to improve its measure of its microfinance activities. Despite not having all the tools and resources needed to do a thorough report on the overall impact of Kiva’s work in Sri Lanka, I can at least say that I do not see the situation with Kiva here as a failure. Although many resources were invested here both on the part of Kiva, and by BRAC Sri Lanka to bring Kiva loans to borrowers here, there are now nearly 200 borrowers who received loans at a special interest rate of 12% from BRAC Sri Lanka, and at no interest from Kiva. As had been stipulated by the Central Bank here, all of those borrowers are below Sri Lanka’s poverty line (families below household incomes of 7,500 LKR, or approximately $2 per day), so these loans went to some of the neediest people in Sri Lanka. And if things work out, then there will still be a future for Kiva in Sri Lanka! Let’s keep our fingers crossed.