Oikocredit and Central Lanera Uruguaya; a long-term partnership
Since its humble beginnings in 1975, Oikocredit has funded 1,670 partner organizations, disbursing over € 2.1 billion in development financing. Of the many organizations that have partnered with Oikocredit over the years, there are several that have remained long-term partners. Central Lanera Uruguaya (CLU), a wool processing cooperative in Uruguay which received its first loan from Oikocredit in 1988, remains a valued partner to this day, taking its total number of loans from Oikocredit to five.
CLU was founded in 1967 as a second-tier cooperative. It was formed by 17 first tier cooperatives having over 1,500 farming families across Uruguay as members. The cooperative’s mission is to integrate wool growers into a competitive production chain to improve their social and economic situation.
Financing a world-class wool mill
Its core business starts by working in the field with farmers to obtain the best possible wool, processing it into fine wool tops in its own combing mill, Lanera Piedra Alta, and trading them across international markets. Lanera Piedra Alta, CLU’s world-class mill, was purchased partly with funds received from an Oikocredit loan. CLU uses a fair price system to pay farmers for their wool. CLU also supports its farmers by providing advanced payments on the wool committed each year.
For the past eight years, Oikocredit country manager for Uruguay, Cecilia Maroño, has worked with CLU and other Oikocredit partners active in the wool business. Cecilia explained that CLU has experienced positive growth, enabling it to acquire bank credits in the local market and also issue negotiable bonds on the Uruguayan stock exchange.
A unique relationship
“The support that Oikocredit has provided is unique and has allowed CLU to have a long-term and stable inflow to finance the business cycle of farmers regardless of market swings,” said Cecilia. “Because Oikocredit’s relationship with CLU is so strong, Oikocredit has always provided support to the cooperative, through thick and thin,” added Cecilia.
CLU also runs a programme for producing and selling lamb meat from its farmers which enables CLU to reach the most demanding markets while ensuring that farmers receive a fair income. The cooperative’s work is targeted towards providing the best possible opportunities to the smallest scale farmers. The cooperative runs sheep production programmes, helping CLU to obtain high-value wool on poor quality soils where farmers on the lowest income levels farm.
A strong cooperative
Out of the 17 first-degree cooperatives members of CLU, three of them are also partners of Oikocredit. These include COPAGRAN, CALSAL and CALMER. Another partner of Oikocredit linked to CLU through various programmes is Manos del Uruguay, a non-profit Fair Trade certified social organization that generates employment for rural women through the wool garment industry.
As one of Oikocredit’s longest standing partners, CLU truly represents cooperative values and the promotion of them. Oikocredit not only sees CLU as a strong and like-minded cooperative, but as an ally.