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Loans

Fight Poverty With Micro Loans

Make the world a better place with small donations to struggling entrepreneurs in developing countries.

You don't have to be rich to be a venture capitalist. For as little as $25, you can provide seed capital to a fledgling baker in Azerbaijan or fund a home-products wholesaler in Ecuador.

Although investing in these businesses won't make you rich -- in fact, you won't even earn interest or get a tax break -- you'll help make the world a richer place by enabling struggling entrepreneurs in developing countries to lift themselves out of poverty.

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That's the idea behind the burgeoning field of microfinance, which got a big shot in the arm last year when Muhammad Yunus, founder of a pioneering microfinance bank in Bangladesh, won the Nobel Peace Prize.

You can invest in hundreds of small businesses throughout the developing world with Kiva.org.

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Here's how it works: Browse the listings of budding entrepreneurs at www.kiva.org. They recently included Valida Mammadova, 45, who is seeking $1,000 to buy a large oven to expand her business of selling traditional sweets from her home in Azerbaijan, and Maritza Beltrán, 24, who needs $625 to buy merchandise for her fledgling home-products business in Guayaquil, Ecuador.

San Francisco-based Kiva works with microfinance organizations throughout the world to find worthy businesses that are also good credit risks. A typical loan is $600, and repayment is usually over six to 18 months. You can follow the progress of the businesses you fund via Kiva's Web site.

Kiva's lending partners charge interest on the loans, but you don't get a cut of it and neither does Kiva. Once the loan is repaid, you can re-loan the money to other entrepreneurs, if you wish.

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