Today, study tour participants presented their experiences and findings. Learning about the cocoa value chain as well as seeing it first-hand was one of the highlights of this trip for many of the participants. To be able to witness how access to finance helps entrepreneurs to develop businesses and create jobs for those who do not have an entrepreneurial spirit was a valuable experience.
Many people do not realize how much micro to medium size entrepreneurs struggle to access finance because they do not have enough guarantees or are considered “too risky” by commercial banks.
During this trip, I realized that there is another important value chain for social investing that I would call the cooperative value chain; cooperatives supporting other cooperatives in both the financial and production sectors.
And here Oikocredit, as worldwide cooperative, plays an important role as asocial investor. Oikocredit, a financial cooperative, supports COOPMAIMÓN, a microfinance cooperative that provides loans to micro and small entrepreneurs as well as smaller cooperatives. In the productive sector, Oikocredit supports CONACADO a cocoa farmer cooperative that is divided into bloques (blocks) composed of smaller associations of cocoa farmers.
The cooperative model gives a sense of ownership and belonging to its members and the possibility to participate in democratic decision making processes. It also brings challenges, but the general balance is positive and people trust the cooperative and are proud to be a member.
One COOPMAIMÓN member told me “I am confident that my money is safe because the cooperative is very strict when it comes to lending money. I do not want to sound arrogant, but COOPMAIMÓN is the best cooperative in the country!”