Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Meetings at El Ceibo headquarters: Oikocredit from the farmer’s perspective

Sapecho is a small town in the Bolivian Amazon that hosts El Ceibo’s central offices, gathering facility and experimental center. El Ceibo is a second-tier cooperative or organic, fair trade cacao farmers from Suyungas, Coranavi and Laricaja provinces in Alto Beni. We were welcomed by a committee of representatives who share with us the story of the cooperative. It was founded in 1977 representing 11 cooperatives. After 31 years, El Ceibo has 49 affiliated cooperatives and 1400 members, benefiting more than 6000 people. Not only do El Ceibo produce organic cacao, they also manage the whole production chain: commercializing chocolate products for the domestic market as well as cacao-based products for the international fair trade markets in Europe and Japan. Oikocredit’s relationship with El Ceibo began in 1987. The same year when they began to pay a fair price for their products (they would get a certification in 1997, although they had fair trade practices long before). This first loan was used for working capital. Oikocredit’s financial support for more than 20 years is acknowledged by El Ceibo members. “For us, Oikocredit is an institution that has helped us to commercialize. In Bolivia, banks do not have any confidence in cooperatives. Oikocredit has a special relation with coops. Oikocredit is a partner for the development of the cooperatives in Bolivia,” says Saturnino Mamani.

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