Blanca Méndez, Oikocredit’s Officer Communications, is in Manchester for the kick-off of the Oikocredit Roadshow 2012 on Cooperatives during Cooperatives United, the international event and exhibition which officially marks the closure of the International Year of Cooperatives.
Truly cooperative partner
2 November 2012: This morning the Oikocredit stand was visited by two “bees” that toured around the expo area to learn more about all exhibitors. And then it was time for the first official roadshow event, the workshop titled “Cooperativa Manduvirá: an inspirational Fairtrade organic cooperative from Paraquay”.
Rodrigo Ortiz, Oikocredit Paraguay's country manager, gave an overview of his country and Oikocredit's activities. Paraguay’s economy depends on agriculture and almost 41% of the population lives in rural areas.
Cooperatives are very important in Paraguay with 20% of the 6.5 million population belonging to one of the almost thousand cooperatives in the country. Agricultural cooperatives contribute significantly to the development of rural areas and export (40% of total exports).
At the moment, Oikocredit Paraguay finances both financial and agricultural cooperatives with an outstanding portfolio of more than €33 million. In addition to providing loans and credit lines, Oikocredit Paraguay also offers equity investments. Furthermore, Oikocredit also supports its partners with funds for capacity building.
Since its establishment in 2007, Oikocredit Paraguay has been in contact with Cooperativa Manduvirá and was the first financier who believed in their dream of building their own organic sugar refinery.
Andrés Gonzáles, general manager of Cooperativa Manduvirá, tells the audience of how the adverse circumstances made all members join forces aiming for a better future for their families. In 1999, Manduvirá got a fair trade certification. Since then, fair trade plays an important role opening doors for new markets and allowing Manduvirá to implement community projects, such as reforestation, health and dental services, and agricultural machinery services.
Strict on education
In particular, it caught my attention that Manduvirá is very strict regarding education: members are obligated to send all their children under 15 to school and child labour is prohibited. As an incentive, Manduvirá provides school supplies.
The new sugar refinery will increase efficiency and reduce costs and it is expected to be completed by the second term of 2013. “When you have a dream, which aims at bringing welfare to the community and you believe in it, do follow it. Even if you face difficulties”, said Andrés. “They mocked us, few believed in us, but with hard working, joint forces, and much effort nothing is impossible.”
This is just the beginning
After the workshop some people came to talk to Rodrigo and Andrés. After a while, it was time to go back to the Oikocredit stand.
Just before the end, I quickly went to the Rochdale stand. In Rochdale, the oldest still active cooperative was founded with the main principles that are standard for cooperatives today. Even though I do not have time to visit Rochdale, at least I had a quick chat with the reps.
As time passed, Cooperatives United 2012 in Manchester was drawing to an end, as an event, because I think for many this is only the beginning as they got inspired by the many experiences shared in these three days.
And then the doors had to close. Manchester has been a great host for this event. There is no doubt the cooperative movement is alive wherever you go. And not only because Manchester has a cooperative supermarket, a cooperative bank, and a cooperative football club, FC United of Manchester, but also thanks to the friendliness, helpfulness and care of the Mancunians.
That’s the cooperative spirit!