Friday, April 27, 2012

Social Performance in Action: Designing loans to fit client needs

For Kiva Field Partner Yehu Microfinance Trust in Kenya, listening to clients is an important part of how they fulfill their mission to combat poverty. Their responsiveness to the unique needs of their clients exemplifies the Client Voice Social Performance badge.

Yehu gets feedback from clients in a variety of ways, including formal market research, client satisfaction surveys, focus group discussions, and a complaint resolution system. It uses this feedback to develop a wide array of specialized loan products to meet the needs of its impoverished and marginalized clients. Yehu believes that access to responsive and sustainable financial services helps accelerate their clients' ability to move up the economic ladder and improve their lives.

Yehu’s responsive product offerings

Many of our Field Partners tailor their products to the needs of their clients, but Yehu goes above and beyond to listen and translate feedback into products that meet clients' social and professional needs. These loan products include:

Poultry, meat and goat loans: Working capital to buy livestock and care-taking equipment.

Photo of borrower Umazi in Tiribe, Kenya.

Traditional business loans: Disbursed quickly, no collateral necessary, and with flexible repayment periods.

School loans (elimu): To mitigate the challenges of timely school fee payments so that clients can focus on operating their businesses.

Housing loans (mabati): For home improvements and clean water harvesting in areas faced with acute water problems.

Islamic loans (Sikukuu): When clients have to close down their businesses for religious reasons, loans enable them to cover costs of food and housing until they can return to work full time.

Health loans (Afya Imara): A combined in-patient and out-patient family medical insurance policy, with no HIV-AIDS exclusion.

Top-up loans: An additional amount given to clients with existing business loans to mitigate unforeseen business challenges.

Emergency loans: Loans to cover finances in case of theft, fire, equipment breakdown, death of livestock, or unexpected medical bills.

Innovative Water Loans: Funds for communal water tanks to store potable water.

A Yehu water tank. Photo by Kiva Fellow Lauren Barra.

Yehu's water loans, or as they are known in Kenya "Maji ni Uhai loans," are especially noteworthy. These loans were developed in response to the enormous challenge of securing uninterrupted, sustainable supplies of clean water. Water loans enable clients to purchase water tanks, piping, water harvesting infrastructure, and fresh water wells for efficient water use.

Yehu shared this story of how one client, who took out a $90 water loan, was able to transform her business by purchasing a water pump:

Mama Shabaan lives on a two acre farm in a rural village along the south cost of Kenya. She sells cash crops, which include tomatoes and spinach, at a local market. Her farmland contains a medium-sized lake. Ironically, she was not benefitting from this substantial body of water as she relied only on rainwater to irrigate her crops. 

When asked if she had ever considered taking advantage of the remarkable body of water near her farm, she said that it was of no use to her because she had no way of accessing the water for irrigation purposes. When she was made aware of the simplicity of using a manual water pump available with a loan through Yehu, she became eager to try it and became optimistic about how it could help her.

After using the manual water pump for five weeks, the increase in income received from the sale of cash crops was 447% -- she went from earning $22 a week to $122 per week! Unlike other farmers who rely solely on rains for irrigation, Mama Shabaan is now able to minimize the fluctuations in her weekly income by producing and selling crops continually throughout the different seasons.

Read more stories and learn about other loan products on Yehu's website.

Yehu’s water loans have a tremendous ripple effect. Access to water benefits the client, their business and the entire community. Clients can even transform their access to water into revenue by selling the much-needed water to their neighbors, which contributes to a more sustainable, prosperous community overall.

Kiva and specialized loan products

Yehu is not the only Kiva Field Partner that responds directly to client needs. Take a look at all our partners who have received the Client Voice badge for more examples of organizations that provide innovative products in response to client feedback and challenges.

In addition to providing loans, many of our Field Partners offer their clients specialized financial products and non-financial support. To bring attention to partners with strong social missions, our Social Performance team has awarded “badges” to organizations that have demonstrated a commitment to improving quality of life for borrowers.

The Social Performance in Action series is designed to share stories from the field that demonstrate the amazing work our partners are doing to meet a range of client needs.