Koret Israel Economic Development Funds, the first microfinance institution in Israel, is now a Kiva partner! Koret Israel Economic Development Funds (KIEDF) was founded in 1993, and since its inception has helped to facilitate access to credit for small business owners through an innovative guarantee program. This program allows small and medium business owners who are denied credit services by Israeli banks to access traditional bank loans with KIEDF backing. In 2006, KIEDF launched the first direct-lending microfinance program in Israel in the Negev desert. This program is called SAWA, or “together” in Arabic.
The SAWA program began by providing microcredit services to Bedouin women in the Negev desert in the southern part of the country. SAWA expanded to Israeli Arab communities in northern Israel in 2010, and beginning in late 2010, the program further expanded to serve all low-income Israeli populations. The program’s all-female team of loan officers was recruited from the communities where SAWA clients live, and the team’s engagement with the Kiva training process and commitment to their clients was outstanding.
KIEDF’s SAWA program targets Israel’s most vulnerable people including Bedouin women. The Bedouin of the Negev were forced to abandon their nomadic lifestyle and most of their territory during urbanization campaigns in the 1950s, and Bedouin are still being relocated, with communities located in territories without legal authorization for development being demolished (Ha'aretz). With their past agricultural and pastoral activities thus disrupted, living conditions in Bedouin communities in the Negev are extremely precarious, and many Bedouin struggle to maintain a healthy standard of living in the face of high unemployment. Of the 160,000 Bedouin people living in the Negev, an estimated 30% of men and 80% of women are unemployed (Food, Nutrition and Agriculture no. 28, 2001).
With the success of the SAWA program, KIEDF has recently opened a branch in Northern Israel and is also targeting low-income Jewish women, who are greatly in need of microfinance services. KIEDF’s focus on serving Jewish and Arab Israeli people alike evidences their strong commitment to poverty alleviation in Israel. Lend to a KIEDF client today, or learn more about KIEDF by viewing their video below or visiting their Kiva partner page. Welcome, KIEDF!