Looking behind the lens
For 16 months, Dutch couple Wim and Pauline Opmeer travelled 34,000 km in their van across Latin America. The Dutch duo, Opmeer Reports, visited over 15 countries and numerous microfinance and agricultural organizations, and some Oikocredit offices, providing stories, videos and professional photos. The couple recently returned to the Netherlands where we spoke with them about their experiences.
Has this journey changed your perception about Oikocredit’s work?
It definitely strengthened our faith in social investing, particularly in microfinance. Having photographed and interviewed over 120 microfinance borrowers, we’ve seen how microfinance is a sustainable way of empowering people. We’ve witnessed how much more sustainable it is to support people with an idea for a business in their local community. When it’s someone’s own idea, when they know the market and take the initiative to make a business plan and get a loan, it seems very effective in helping people change their lives.
In your opinion, what added value does Oikocredit bring to its partner organizations?
When talking to Oikocredit’s partners, what we heard was that it was Oikocredit’s long-term vision that was its added value. We also saw how involved the Oikocredit country managers are with Oikocredit’s partners. For them, it’s not just about providing capital, but also advising and providing training and sharing best practices. This they said was a key factor in choosing to partner with Oikocredit.
What partner visit had the biggest impact on you both?
After visiting so many partners, the one that had the biggest impact on us was the alpaca farmers of the cooperative COOPECAN in Peru. We made a very arduous journey high into the Andes, where we met Nicomedes Cochama Yava, an alpaca farmer who works 5,000 metres above sea level. We were taken aback by the spartan conditions in which he lived and by the extreme weather he endured every day. Most of the year, to shepherd his herd, Nicomedes lives alone in a clay hut without running water, electricity or even a stove to cook. Even though this life seemed very hard, it was wonderful to witness how being part of the cooperative was helping him to improve his farming methods, the quality of the wool and his income.
What was the highlight of your journey?
For us it was most certainly CAPUCAS, a coffee cooperative in Honduras. We were there for five days and were so warmly welcomed by everyone at CAPUCAS, as well as the Oikocredit country manager, Gerardo López. We were able to see all aspects of the cooperative and talk to a lot of different members, who were eager to tell their story. During our stay we witnessed how the cooperative was creating employment for young people as well as a community spirit. It was also rewarding to see how the cooperative helped a women’s group to start their own enterprise.