The Right Way to End Poverty

Recently, I had the opportunity to go to a meeting called “Small World/Big Future,” in which Erik Peterson discussed seven major trends that he predicts will change the world between now and 2025. These trends include changes in demographics, improvements in technology, and rapid information distribution, among others.

During his speech, Mr. Peterson, senior vice president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies mentioned a commonly cited statistic: More than half of the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day. To me, this is almost unimaginable; how can you survive on so little?

So, clearly, much of the world is extremely poor. Organizations have developed to help people out of poverty by giving them money, clothes, medicine, and so on. While these are good and noble things to do, these organizations have failed to actually stop poverty. The problem can be summed up in the old cliché “If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime.”

You can’t just send food, water, medicine, and money; you have to help local people generate their own income. Many times, there are people in these developing nations who want to start a business, but simply can’t afford to because they can barely survive on their current incomes.

That’s where Kiva.org comes in. Kiva is a non-profit organization that helps connect people the United States and other wealthy nations with these entrepreneurs. Kiva lets you loan small amounts of money to these entrepreneurs to get their businesses started. (I do mean small amounts of money; some of these entrepreneurs only need $250 to get started.) Once they’re on their feet, they’ll repay you with interest. [ED-Thanks, Scott!]

This isn’t just charity; it’s an investment. And, frankly, investing in these nations is the most sustainable way to help them pull themselves out of poverty.

3 thoughts on “The Right Way to End Poverty

  1. This post reminded me of a fascinating article I read early this year about an effort to provide clean water and electricity to poverty-stricken areas. It sounded like a great way to help the little guy help himself.

  2. “Once they’re on their feet, they’ll repay you with interest.”

    Actually, that doesn’t seem true. Quote from their FAQ:

    “20. Do I get interest on my loan?

    No. Kiva.org’s loans do not provide a financial return on investment.”