Update on Kiva Loans

Partner David standing in front of some of his existing plantain trees

Partner David standing in front of some of his existing plantain trees

Late in July we closed a plantain loan on Kiva, a microlending platform that supports entrepreneurs and projects in the developing world. The $6,000 loan will cover the costs of a plantain project with our partner David, including seed stock, fertilizer, fencing materials, and technical assistance.

This latest one closes out our round of seven plantain loans, all with our smallholder and Indigenous partners in Panama. We are already starting to harvest plantains from project funded with our 2013 loans, and look forward to hopefully renewing an agreement with Kiva to continue doing these high-impact projects.

With our remaining credit line, we plan to fundraise on Kiva for longer term timber projects, that will deliver more revenue and opportunity for our Panamanian partners.

We took this set of videos to demonstrate the process of seeding the plantains in the nursery prior to planting.

Update on Kiva Plantain Project

Update on Kiva Plantain Project

In our last journal update we covered the process of incubating plantain seeds in the nursery. Since then the plantains grew to the appropriate size, and we began planting.

During the first couple of weeks in August, Liriano and the team from Arimae cleared the planting area of the thick undergrowth. The area was originally planted as a pure cocobolo (Rosewood) stand as part of a previous community project, but it had been some time since it was cleaned, so we spent a fair amount of labor machete-ing.

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Update from Arimae

The plantain nursery in Arimae

Note: This update was originally posted on the loan page for Arimae on Kiva.

Since our loan was funded on Kiva, Liriano and the crew have begun the process of growing the plantain trees. The first step was to build a nursery to incubate the plantain seedlings, so they can be transplanted to the planting site with minimum mortality. In the nursery we can control the water, sun and temperature during the most vulnerable state of the seedlings’ growth. The plastic covering over the nursery raises the heat in the greenhouse, which promotes faster germination. The women from the village of Arimae have taken a leading role in helping to establish and maintain the nursery.

We’re working with a seed called semillas de agua--water seeds--which are high quality. To ensure the highest quality and quantity from the plantain trees, we start with unbruised, two pound seeds with no leaves.

At the prep site, we trim off all the skin from the plantains seed to ensure a large surface area is exposed, then treat them for about 20 minutes with a fungicide and nematicide.

Then we place the seeds into the nursery. The seeds sit on a 1" layer of rice husks, and we surround all the seeds with an organic fertilizer mix containing, rice husks, gallinaza (chicken excrement), dirt, and biochar from our timber projects. The plantain seeds get daily watering and plenty of TLC to encourage rapid growth. As of this writing, they are just starting to sprout leaves.

The average plantain stalk produces three good plantain harvests, or about one per year. Once the plantains are harvested from one stalk, we cut that stalk, and leave the strongest new stalk to regenerate from the same root system as the mother stalk. Or, we can harvest that stalk as a seed for planting and propagate it.

Originally, we thought that the seed incubation would take a month, but it looks like we’ll have to transplant the fastest growers at three weeks. The next stage is planting the seedlings, and we’ll cover that in our next journal update. The community looks forward to planting the seedlings and expects a strong harvest.

Kiva Loan for Agroforestry

Two weeks ago we closed a loan on Kiva, a website that enables individuals to contribute to loans to help communities and projects around the world.

The $8,000 loan, raised from more than 200 individual Kival lenders, will fund the cultivation of four hectares of plantains with our partner community Arimae. The community will plant the plantains between rows of cocobolo trees, which they planted as part of the UNDP-GEF Small Grants Programme project. The loan covers the costs for seed stock, fertilizer, tools, labor, maintenance, and harvesting costs for the plantain project, and Kiva lenders will be repaid from profits on the plantain sales.

This was a milestone for both Kiva and Planting Empowerment because it was the first Kiva loan ever in the country of Panama, and represents a new source of financing for agroforestry projects that strengthen food security, create employment, and generate income for rural communities.

Kiva acts as a bridge between responsible lenders and projects that need financing. Founded in 2005, Kiva has facilitated more than $400 million in loans from more than 900,000 lenders for projects in 68 countries. With the closing of our agroforestry loan, Panamá became number 69.

As sustainable agroforestry projects gain support among rural communities in Panama, we expect to continue using Kiva as a way to fund projects and help improve evironmental and social conditions. We expect to list another loan on Kiva in the coming months for $35,000 to plant tropical woods and plantains with the community.

A big thanks to everyone at Kiva who worked with us to make this happen, and we look forward to continue working together!

Read the full press release ›