I have recently made several contacts with people working with agricultural cooperatives here, which is extremely exciting.  Several conversations later, I´m left wondering if my project here is trying to link technical and economical resources for agriculturalists, why I didn´t start with cooperatives in the first place.

The most well known cooperatives here are the fair trade coffee cooperatives in the north, but I recently met a technical assistant at a sesame cooperative in Condega that has 200 farms, and an American girl who is working for an NGO that just gave a loan to a honey cooperative here in León.  The cooperative is able to offer farmers loans, and they often hire their own technical assistants to serve their members.  In some cooperative models, you can take out individual loans, as well as earning ´dividends´paid from the joint ownership is made accessable only when you leave the cooperative, sort of like a 401-k for farmers.

My first impression is that the main difference in what cooperatives offer is that their first goal is to increase production, and they offer financial services because that is the means by which production can be improved.  MFIs, on the other hand, have a goal of improving the financial situation of a family, which in a rural area means encouraging production.  Which means that even though they have the contacts and access to the countryside, their motivations for offering technical support (and some criticize: hiking interest rates up) are secondary.

That being said, it doesn´t mean that they can´t have those motivations too.  Tomorrow is the first day that our three student interns are going to join us in our reforestation project with CEPRODEL.  Hasta pronto…!!