A farmer rebuilds again, as a refugee in her own land

Photos by Liz Fish

Leila is constantly smiling, and beams with pride when talking about her farm. But behind her sunny exterior, she carries a story of extreme hardship and perseverance.

Leila used to live in Ochamchire, in the coastal region of Abkhazia, situated in the north-western corner of Georgia. She was forced to leave her home, her roots and everything she knew in 1989 due to a regional conflict that eventually developed into a war between Georgia and Russia, led to Abkhazia formally declaring independence in 1999 and resulted in an international economic embargo that is still in force. Around 250,000 Georgian-speakers were forced to leave their homes because of the conflict, around half the population of the region, according to the BBC News.

When Leila fled to another part of the country to rebuild her life, she became what is known as an internally displaced person, or a refugee in her own land — without the recognition of being a refugee.

“Internally displaced people (IDPs) have not crossed a border to find safety. Unlike refugees, they are on the run at home…these people are among the most vulnerable in the world.“ -UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency

About 38 million people around the world are internally displaced, but because a crucial requirement to be considered a “refugee” is crossing an international border, many IDPs don’t receive as much attention or as much assistance.

Leila was forced to establish a new life with no possessions. She had very few options and no extended family or network to turn to for support. She managed to buy cows to generate enough income to start to rebuild.

But after years of scraping together a living, hardship struck again: her son had a serious health problems and she sold everything she could to pay for his medical expenses and ensure his well being.

In 2013, Leila found herself back in a situation so common for IDPs who struggle to rebuild wealth or safety nets: with no possessions or current business to provide as collateral, she couldn’t get a loan with traditional financial institutions to create a new business. That’s where the Kiva community came in: 24 lenders created opportunity for Leila, giving her the starting capital to rebuild again.

Leila used her loan of $625 to purchase a new cow. Her cow had 2 calves, and with the extra income Leila was able to buy another calf. When she first received the loan, the milk produced by the cow was barely enough for their household consumption. Now, Leila has big plans. “After expanding the farm and breed[ing] more cows I plan to renovate my house and expand it,” she said.

When asked if there was anything she wanted to say to the Kiva community, Leila said, “Of course, I will thank them and I wish there to be more people in the world like them to help poor people. This is a very good initiative.”

If you would like to help an entrepreneur with big dreams, but limited opportunities, like Leila, visit Kiva.org today and make a loan! If you’d like to support a loan to a refugee or displaced person, click here!

About the author

Diana Baule

Diana was born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil, where she graduated College with a Law Degree. After one year working with Constitutional Rights and Freedom of Speech in Brazil, she decided to move to the Bay Area. In San Francisco she graduated from Hult IBS with a Master’s degree in International Business. Diana then discovered a passion for online marketing and data analytics. While at Kiva, she wants to help all the entrepreneurs tell their stories, while driving even more people to Kiva.org. She is passionate about social entrepreneurship and the empowerment of women, and hopes to learn tons about micro credit and community development. She also loves traveling to new places and collecting stories and laughter from across the globe!