Khana Loan Initiatives Offers Families More Options for Housing in Afghanistan

In the three months ending July 30, the Khana Loan Initiative, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, disbursed 2,312 small loans in Afghanistan, amounting to $4.26 million that Afghan families could use to build or improve their homes. The project is managed by the First Microfinance Bank of Afghanistan (FMFB-A), the largest microfinance institution in the country; 31 percent of its clients live in rural communities.

Important for the project's goal of helping marginalized groups is the fact that 21 percent of its borrowers are women. Ensuring access to finance for women in Afghanistan is often difficult due to cultural and social barriers. Despite the challenges, FMFB-A has made good progress in reaching women who need financial options. Since culturally, only female loan officers can reach out to women clients, FMFB-A hired 97 female loan officers who promote housing loans. From May through July, 21 percent of the total outstanding portfolio represented female borrowers, an increase of 7.5 percent (1,891 compared to 1,759) from the previous quarter.

With a favorable construction environment, FMFB-A anticipates increasing demand for urban housing finance loans in the next quarter.

Housing loans represent a key investment in building a stronger fabric of civil society in Afghanistan, an approach known as "multi-input area development" in the Aga Khan Development Network. This approach to create an enabling environment considers the infrastructure needed to support an improved quality of life, especially in a setting made fragile by conflict, and taps the wellspring of initiative in Afghan life. Learn how the Aga Khan Foundation also supports more education and teaching opportunities for Afghan women in this month's blog. 

Tree Planting Campaign with Lions Club Brings New Forests to Kenya

Two years ago the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and Lions Clubs International made an ambitious pledge to plant 1.5 million trees in Kenya by July 2012. Kenya had experienced one of the world's worst rates of deforestation; by the mid-1980s over 70 percent of its original forest was gone.

The joint campaign more than made good on that pledge with a wide range of events, participants, cross-agency collaboration and enthusiasm from Kenya's students. AKDN's Serena Hotels in Kenya commemorated World Environment Day on June 5, 2012 at Mount Kenya National Park in central Kenya, where students, hotel staff and others (including 20 people who learned of the event via Twitter) planted 10,000 cypress seedlings. The Lions Club of Kenya was very active with plantings around the country, including one in the western Kaptagat Forest that left 103,840 new trees. (Read about earlier planting events in blog posts from April and May.)

By July 2012, the AKDN-Lions campaign had planted over 2.6 million trees -- over 1 million beyond the goal! With seedlings from tree nurseries that employ youth and women, the campaign has helped move Kenya toward the government's goal of getting 10 percent of the country's land area covered with forest again by 2030.

ANDE Conference and Impact Investing: Measuring Impact 

Recently two members of the Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A. (AKF USA) Impact Investing team attended the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs' (ANDE) fourth annual Metrics Conference in Washington DC. ANDE promotes prosperity in the developing world through entrepreneurship and small and growing businesses (SGBs) by helping investors realize the power of these ventures to produce economic, environmental, and social impact. In this way ANDE hopes to energize development with carefully focused, market-driven processes.

That fits with AKF USA's Impact Investing Initiative, which grows directly from the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN)'s history of social development programs and its leadership in mobilizing capital for social good. For more than 50 years AKDN has financed critical infrastructure in developing countries including banks, energy, and media enterprises, with profits reinvested in other economic and social development initiatives. To apply the discipline of impact investing to AKDN's portfolio of social infrastructure investments, AKF USA's Impact Investing Initiative creates opportunities for mobilizing investment capital for high-impact social enterprises within AKDN. At the ANDE conference members discussed new ways to measure their broader impact for society, including reducing poverty. Read the full blog post here.


Partnership Walk Season Heats Up: Chicago

The first of ten Partnership Walk events of the 2012 season will take place in Chicago on Sunday, August 26 at Chicago's Montrose Harbor. The Walk will have lively entertainment and activities for all ages celebrating the diversity of world cultures. Participants can enjoy interactive exhibits spotlighting the Foundation's practical solutions for alleviating poverty from Afghanistan to Zanzibar. In addition to the Walk, this year's event includes a 100-yard dash, a 1K Run and 3K
Run.  This year's entertainment program aims to surpass all expectations, with featured bands including Bassel and the Supernaturals. Learn more about how you can take a step to end global poverty and register to participate here.

Watch our new DVD: AKF USA Stories from the Field.
A new video introducing the Aga Khan Foundation and its work, with moving stories from Afghanistan and Kenya, is on AKF's Youtube channel. Watch and let us know what you think.