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Archive for January, 2010

New Photos

Check out the new photos from my weeklong trip to Capiz province and visit to the La Castellana branch of Negros Women for Tomorrow.

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The following was written for the Kiva Fellows blog.  Read the original here.

This job is unique, in that it offers an endless supply of intellectual satisfaction.  Every day, I learn something new about something interesting.  For the time being, what interests me most is microfinance.  My knowledge of microfinance prior to Kiva could be described as purely academic.  Experiencing it firsthand has been rewarding.  In particular, I like understanding the details of execution, the challenges faced by the institution, and generally how a microfinance institution works.  The amount of information to digest is enormous, so I try to focus on understanding a few NWTF (Negros Women for Tomorrow) programs that I think are in my wheelhouse.  The downside is that I end up overlooking many fascinating and unambiguously positive programs.  The other day my coworkers were telling me about the upcoming Foundation day at one of the branches.  Every year, each branch that meets a certain threshold of repayment and performance can have a Foundation Day party with upwards of 2,000 attendees.  I was supposed to go to one in Cauyaun on Saturday, but I got food poisoning the day before and was bedridden.  At some of the Foundation Day celebrations, NWTF holds a mass wedding.  This is one of those programs that I find really interesting for different reasons.  Let me explain why. (more…)

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Here in the Philippines, the most common use for a microloan is a sari-sari store – otherwise known as a general or convenience store.  There are an estimated 700,000 of them here, and you can find one on just about every block in the country.  In 2007, an organization called Microventures Incorporated introduced its Hapinoy program, which is a coop of sari sari stores across the country.  By joining together, these stores can get leverage economies of scale to get volume discounts, competitive pricing, and more favorable terms for microloans.  The organization purchases products in bulk from Procter & Gamble and other large manufacturers, and distributes them to each Hapinoy store via a community store.  It is a hub-and-spoke model with a wholesale store serving different regions.  Here is a program that operates within the existing framework of the country, improving what exists, rather than trying to change it altogether. (more…)

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It is the greatest art of the devil to convince us he does not exist. Charles Baudelaire, 1821-1867


Here in the Philippines, the brewery is called San Miguel.  Founded in 1890, the company employs 26,000 people and holds 90% of the Philippine market.  The largest brewery in the country is right here in Bacolod, so there is a lot of San Miguel pride.  There are three main brands – the San Mig Light, the Pale Pilsen, and the Red Horse.   The first two are perfectly acceptable choices in any situation, particularly for the health-conscious traveler that wants to mitigate the fried pork’s feet.  In fact, as long as a food is small enough to fit in the pan, Filipinos will fry it.  If it is too big, they will cut it into two pieces and fry both.  But this is besides the point.   The third beer, Red Horse, is affectionately known as the Water of the Devil.  It is truly a horse of a different color – a poisonous, deadly color.  It is the color of blood and fire.  Brewed deep in the pits of hell by the lost souls cast down after being bucked from the stallion, the Horse boasts a beastly 7% alcohol content.  Few among the living have entered the ring with the horse and left with their dignity intact. (more…)

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The following was written for the Kiva Fellows blog.  See the original here.

I spent all last week touring a province in the Philippines with a 7-person team in an effort to gather market intelligence about the region.  The purpose is to determine whether or not NWTF should open a branch here.  Much of our day is spent driving around a town (one in the morning and one in the afternoon) looking for the poorest neighborhoods.  The Dilapidated Housing Index is a means of making a snap judgment about whether a community is sufficiently poor for microfinance to be beneficial.  If most of the houses on the street are made of bamboo, corrugated aluminum, and bamboo leaves, we know we are looking in the right place.

A fishing village in the Philippines

On Thursday morning, we were driving through a coastal town when the paved road turned to dirt.  According to the driver and director of the research department at NWTF, when the road turns to dirt, you know you are headed in the right direction.  Sure enough, within a few minutes we reached a squatter community bustling with people.  (In the Philippines, the government protects squatters, and large communities spring up on other peoples’ lands.)  The road was just wide enough to fit the van and lined with nipa huts and sari sari stores.  We passed by two makeshift basketball courts before coming to the end of the road.  We parked the van and split up to walk around and talk to the people.  Unfortunately, the interviews are all in Illonggo, so I chose to follow the director down to the shore.  He began talking to a group of women on the beach holding their infant children.  If they could have a loan to spend on anything in their community, what would it be?  Their response: diesel fuel or an icemaker.  I’ll explain why this is important, but first some background. (more…)

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Microfinance is a term to describe the broad umbrella of financial services to people without access to a traditional banking system.  Microfinance institutions (MFIs) provide these types of services, which include microcredit, insurance (health, life, crop), savings accounts, remittances, and others.  Most MFIs rely on social collateral for repayment, which, in turn, is dependent on the strength of the community.  The community is at the center of the mission of microfinance, and some of the most interesting services offered by MFIs are aimed at making the community better as a whole.

Villages served by NWTF frequently support a single industry.  A community on the water might derive its livelihood from fishing or oyster farming.  Similarly, a community in the middle of a rice field s likely to revolve around rice farming.  The NWTF members in the community either have businesses in the industry (i.e. operating a fishing boat or renting crab nets) or supporting the industry (sari-sari store, buy-and-sell, used clothing).  In these cases, the health of the community is directly tied to the strength of the industry.  This is where community-based loans are useful. (more…)

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Photo Gallery

I am keeping a photographic record of my trip.  Check out the galleries on the sidebar to the right.

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