By Meg Gray, KF9 Nicaragua

Yarlin proudly shows me the solar panel she purchased with her Kiva loan.

As a Kiva lender, I wistfully search the “green loans” category every time I go to relend my funds on
Sadly, I feel like I almost always get the “no loans found” response. This is too bad for many reasons. Green loans, such as solar panels, fruit trees, or water filtration systems, have such a profound (and sustainable) impact on the borrower’s life while also helping the environment at-large. CEPRODEL, my MFI, for instance, has a reforestation program where clients receive a loan to buy a mixture of trees to plant along riverbeds on their property.This protects the river from erosion caused be deforestation in the area and in the long term, the fruit trees will also provide food for the borrower’s families.
CEPRODEL client, Yarlin Moreno, is another example of a green loan. She used her Kiva loan to buy a solar panel for her house. Before the solar panel, her family did not have electricity. Her family lives so remotely that their whole community is off the power grid and her daughter, literally, walks almost 4 miles to school each day. Now they have several light bulbs and a very small television. This Kiva loan- this GREEN Kiva loan- has completely changed their lives. They can do work in the evening, watch television, and keep up with local news. CEPRODEL has a whole list of clients like this who used Kiva loans to get solar panels which in turn gave their families power for the first time. Yet since they all live so remotely I only got to visit Yarlin.

Stories like this just make me wish even more that green loans were a common occurrence on the Kiva platform. I find it a bit discouraging that I can never find green loans and yet I can almost always find loans for chemical fertilizers or making charcoal. And why are green loans missing? There are a lot of reasons green loans might be missing. Here are some of my best guesses/ponderings:

1) Loan limit too small. In Latin America, for instance, loans are limited to $1200. In Nicaragua this is only enough to buy the smallest size of solar panel. Clients wanting a larger panel won’t qualify for Kiva. Maybe there should be an exception made for green loans?

2) MFI’s don’t understand what the “green” category is and don’t mark loans in this category. This is definitely true at CEPRODEL where the solar panels are generally listed as housing loans. “Green” is not a concept that translates easily. (Unfortunately, CEPRODEL hasn’t had any new solar panel loans for me to demonstrate the purpose of the green category with)

3) Easier to find funding for this type of loan from other sources. This is a guess, but I know there are other organizations out there that are eager to fund this type of project.

Any thoughts? I’d love to hear more suggestions and ideas on this front. And I look forward to the day when every time I go on Kiva, I have my choice of solar panels, water filters, reforestation projects, etc…

Meg Gray is currently working with Kiva’s field partner CEPRODEL in Nicaragua, where she is also dreaming of the day when green loans are plentiful on the Kiva website. Support another CEPRODEL entrepreneur here or pick up a Kiva gift certificate for the special someone who is still on your list…

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