MADISON, Wis. — Credit unions in Peru launched a comprehensive program in 2006 with World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) to increase financial services access for the rural poor in that South American country. Executives from various credit unions and financial associations in the U.S. and Australia arrived in Lima, Peru’s capital, this past weekend to examine the program’s methodology and impact. The group will engage in a rigorous program of site visits to cities, remote rural communities and credit unions throughout Peru. Brian Branch, WOCCU’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, is leading the group.
Participants include Laida Garcia, executive vice president of Florida Central Credit Union, Tampa; Adrian Lovney, chief executive of Abacus-Australian Mutuals, an organization serving Australian credit unions and mutual building societies; Dave Klavitter, vice president of information services at the Credit Union National Association (CUNA); Dennis Tanimoto, president & CEO of the Hawaii Credit Union League; Anne Cochran, president/CEO of the Louisiana Credit Union League and WOCCU board member as well as various WOCCU staff. The week-long program will provide participants with field experience, as well as engage their insights and advice for WOCCU’s development efforts in emerging markets.
“Many people in the U.S., Canada, Australia and Europe support international credit union development,” Branch said. “When we have the opportunity to see how credit unions transform people’s lives in developing countries, we’re rewarded with a first-person perspective of financial empowerment.”
On Monday, Oct. 22, the first day of the program, J. Manuel Rabines, CEO of the National Federation of Peruvian Credit Unions (FENACREP) and second vice chair of WOCCU, opened the morning session with a presentation on the Peruvian credit union system. As of March 31, 2007, FENACREP had 163 credit union affiliates serving 614,000 members in Peru. Consolidated credit union assets in the FENACREP system were $628 million as of that date.
Branch followed Rabines with an overview of how the WOCCU program links rural producer credit union members with urban market owner members. With funding of $1.3 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) office of Microenterprise Development and support from FENACREP, WOCCU is implementing a three-year (2006 -09) program to increase access to financial services for Peru’s rural poor. Working with eight partner credit unions, the program will concentrate on increasing income generation for poor households through improvements in access to financial services and value-chain linkages.
Many rural poor face difficulties in increasing income and assets not only because of lack of access to financial services, but also due to lack of information about crop demands and product prices. The resolution of one problem without the other does not necessarily lead to increased income. WOCCU’s Peru program focuses on increasing income generation and wealth accumulation for poor households by linking improvements in access to financial services through credit unions with improvements in access to markets for rural producers to sell their crops. Luis Jimenez, project director of the WOCCU Credit Union Market Integration Project (CUMIP), concluded the session with a project status update.
Tuesday, the group flies to Ayacucho in the Andean highlands to visit rural agriculture producers receiving financing from two WOCCU project credit unions. Participants will observe value-chain finance firsthand and will meet with poor microentrepreneur members of an all-women savings and credit group organized by a project credit union.
Wednesday and Thursday, the program continues in Cusco, the former capital of the Inca Empire. On Wednesday, the group will visit a project credit union to learn about preparations for the formation of a national credit union network in Peru. In addition to the WOCCU project, the Vermont Credit Union League, FENACREP’s international partner, is also providing assistance with the network development.
Thursday, participants will interview credit union members in their microenterprises. These members are supporting and expanding their businesses with a new lending product designed by WOCCU, a microcredit loan for microentrepreneurs in urban areas.
World Council of Credit Unions is the global trade association and development agency for credit unions. World Council promotes the sustainable development of credit unions and other financial cooperatives around the world to empower people through access to high quality and affordable financial services. World Council advocates on behalf of the global credit union system before international organizations and works with national governments to improve legislation and regulation. Its technical assistance programs introduce new tools and technologies to strengthen credit unions' financial performance and increase their outreach.
World Council has implemented more than 290 technical assistance programs in 71 countries. Worldwide, 57,000 credit unions in 103 countries serve 208 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.