As I’ve been knee deep in technical office work the past couple of weeks, I decided it would be more interesting to share someone else’s story. My colleague Guja Lucheschi is doing a three month project with Genesis this summer and generously offered to share a bit about her experience with the blog readership. Guja is from Italy and spent the last year getting a masters degree in microfinance at Solvay Brussels School in Brussels. Prior to that she worked in regional politics and studied political science and international relations. The following is an excerpt from a conversation we had discussing her time in the field:
Me: So, what attracted you to microfinance in the first place?
Guja: I’ve always been interested in poverty and development and have been quite disillusioned with the other possibilities, so I thought I’d try something different like microfinance: selling something to the poor to make them richer.
Me: How did you end up at Génesis Empresarial?
G: My professor and another NGO from Luxembourg are conducting a research project on “green” microfinance. They are conducting a large general research on microfinance and specifically on payment for environmental services throughout Central America. They had already done a lot of work in Nicaragua and they wanted to evaluate how a certain project worked in other countries. The general purpose is to evaluate the impact of the project, both for rural development and on the environment. They had a contract with Genesis and asked the class if anyone was interested in doing this research, so I applied.
Me: So how are you trying to evaluate the project?
Yeah, that’s the big question! I kinda work on two levels. One is how the project is implemented and the second is the effects, how have the clients been impacted: environmental awareness, changing production behavior, and diversification of income. But there could also be other effects that weren’t foreseen. It’s hard to measure the impact because it’s hard to find the nexus between one of the components of the program and the behavior of the clients. I think about things like is it because there is money that they change their behavior? Will it have long term effect?
What do you see you final deliverable looking like?
For Genesis it will be, here is what happened and here are my recommendations for the future. For my thesis, it’ll be more complicated.
What did your typical day look like when you were in the field?
I would meet up with an asesor (loan officer) or a facilitator sometime between 6 and 8 am depending on how far the community was. It would be between 1-3 hours of travel, mostly on motor bike. We’d have a list of clients that we had prepared the day before and we’d go house to house interviewing the clients. Most of them spoke Q’eqchi, so my colleague would have to translate. I would interview between 2-7 clients per day, depending on distance between clients, availability of clients, actually finding them, and of course the weather. For instance, women are a lot easier to find than men since the men are often working in the campo. Also, an interview could last between 20 minutes and an hour since sometimes the conversation would stick just to the questionnaire and sometimes they would talk a lot and offer lunch. They like to ask me questions too like my mother’s name, if I’m married, about my family. Then I’d go back to whatever town I was staying in and would basically go to bed so early because I was so tired! I’d put the interviews in the computer so I didn’t forget anything, and then go to bed to be ready for the next day. We’d go out 3-4 days a week and the other day(s) I’d review what I did during the week.
Yeah, but it was a good exhausting. Continue reading