By Dave Weber, KF16 Cambodia
On 22-September I had the opportunity to join Davuth Seat, whose responsibilities now include Kiva coordination at VisionFund Cambodia, on a trip to the Kandal Province south of Phnom Penh to collect data on their first 3 Kiva clients.
We left VisionFund’s Phnom Penh headquarters at 7:30am in a pickup truck and drove 90 minutes south to a VisionFund branch in the Kandal Province.
The Kandal Province surrounds (but does not include) Phnom Penh and is known for rice fields and river fisheries. At the branch, we picked up a local loan officer and headed out to meet our first 3 Kiva borrowers. If you weren’t excited first, let me tell you that here’s where the fun begins.
We stopped on the way for pumpkin cakes wrapped in banana leaves. Now most MFIs and Kiva Fellows would have just stopped with the pumpkin cakes and called it a day, but this is VisionFund Cambodia and we had serious work to do.
We drove another 45 minutes and crossed a river by ferry (term used lightly – the operator had to pour river water on his engine throughout the trip to prevent overheating) to a village not accessible by a bridge.
Cambodia’s heavy rains made for muddy roads and the truck did not travel far before we had to exit the dry air conditioned comfort of the truck and walk the remainder of the way into the village to meet with the clients. We try our best to look presentable, but the muddy shoes didn’t help.
We encountered our first borrower, Chreb, underneath the stilts of her home sheltered from the late morning Cambodian sun. Davuth came prepared with a paper questionnaire form to collect information required to post the loan on Kiva.
We found out that Chreb requested a loan to purchase more pigs and to feed pigs like this beauty in her back yard. In Cambodia, no part of a pig goes to waste. They eat all parts of these animals except the bones. She also creates and sells rice wine on the side.
To “sign” the loan documents and client waivers, most borrowers use their thumbprint. As she was the first VisionFund Kiva borrower, I requested a photo of her before she had a chance to clean the ink off her hand. All the while, hoping that asking somebody to put their thumb up isn’t some kind of Cambodian social faux pas.
Our second borrower, Ri, owns her own general goods store. She sells items like cake, eggs, soap, and shampoo.
Our final visit of the day was to Seur, a rice farmer who requested a loan to purchase fertilizer for her rice fields and spice plantation. Anybody who thinks Seur doesn’t look good in purple is beyond mistaken.
After collecting all 3 clients’ information, we took a break for lunch and I captured a rare “six-on-a-motorbike” sighting on camera.
After lunch, we dropped the loan officer back at the Kandal Branch and returned to VisionFund Cambodia’s Phnom Penh headquarters to enter all of our collected information and photos into Kiva Partner Administration ver.2 (PA2).
Cissy Deluca, the Field Support Specialist for the EAP region wrote a separate blog post introducing VisionFund Cambodia. Read her post here.
Also, it would be great if you could assist me in showing our support to this newest field partner by joining their lending team.
Side note: Cambodia just recently celebrated their Pchum Ben holiday and many staff at Cambodian MFIs were on leave. As a result, it will take a couple days for newly available Cambodian loans to ramp up on Kiva.
Dave Weber is a 4th year PhD candidate in Information Systems at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. His dissertation topic is on the impact of information and communication technologies on the microfinance industry. He and his wife worked at Woodstock School in the Himalayan foothills of India and have volunteered with NightLight in Bangkok aimed at assisting the victims of sex trafficking. When he is not reading, writing, and researching, Dave enjoys playing basketball and tennis, music, traveling, wreaking havoc on his Harley, and rooting for the pathetic Cincinnati Bengals.