Thursday, November 1, 2012

Passport Series: Reaching internally displaced communities in Azerbaijan

This month's Passport Series opened our eyes to the over 700,000 internally displaced people living in Azerbaijan -- the most per capita than any other country in the world. This is the legacy of the Nagorno-Karabakh War, which forced thousands to flee their homes due to violence and ethnic strife almost 20 years ago.

With such a large portion of the country's population living in poverty with limited resources, we wanted to take a closer look at what it means to be internally displaced.

"Internally displaced" is a label used to describe people who have been forced or pressured to leave their homes or places of traditional residence. This usually results from armed conflict, generalized violence, violations of human rights, natural or man-made natural disasters and more.

Kiva works closely with this population through three Field Partners in Azerbaijan: Aqroinvest Credit Union, Komak Credit Union and VisionFund AzerCredit.

Several years ago, Kiva fellow Yelena Shuster visited the city of Fuzuli to meet with borrowers, and recorded her time with internally displaced borrowers.

More recently, Kiva fellow Chris Paci was stationed with Aqroinvest Credit and visited war-torn Fuzuli as well. He described the destruction that had taken place:

Violent fighting swept through Füzuli several times in 1993, reducing its towns to rubble and displacing its inhabitants several times over. By the time the ceasefire came, most of its population had lost everything there was to lose. Even today, the IDPs of Füzuli are among the poorest people in all Azerbaijan. There is not a life in the region that has not been shattered by war.

Chris met with borrwer, Farig in the Ahmabeyli village of the Fuzuli region. He has four children and has paid back two loans to buy cattle. He's been working with livestock for 12 years.

Farig outside his house with one of his bulls.

Chris noted that Farig was extremely grateful for his first loan. The money had been extended on trust -- with Farig unable to provide collateral. This type of assistance is especially meaningful to internally displaced people, many of whom lost all record of their credit histories when they had to flee.

"Without microfinance, I would have been just a subsistence farmer,” Farig told Chris. “But these loans have helped my family so much. Thank you. Thank you.”

Another such borrower, Kamala, is determined to rebuild her livelihood after losing everything in the war. Her responsibility as a mother to four children is her major driving force.

Kamala paid back her loan of $1,650, which helped her purchase three calves and more fodder. She has been working for eight years raising cattle, usually buying small calves, raising them, and selling them at the local livestock bazaar.

Since receiving the loan, Kamala has built a small stable in her house. Her earnings reflect her long-term efforts to care for her animals. She's also very enthusiastic about expanding her cattle operations to generate even more income.

A recent Kiva lender survey showed that 59% of lenders are motivated to make loans in order to support internally displaced individuals. If you want to help the internally displaced population of Azerbaijan, read their stories and make loans on the website. Kiva is proud to be working with Field Partners who are reaching this population with resources they actually want and need.

This is the final post of a three-part series taking a deep dive look at Azerbaijan, its history with microfinance and Kiva's role in expanding opportunities for the population.

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