Credit Unions Help St. Lucia Farmers Find New Markets
(l-r) Carlos Calderón, OAS FCU president and CEO; Laborie Credit Union members, Mr. Felicien and his daughter Olivia; and Felix Chicot, St. Lucia Department of Agriculture.
Madison, WI—With the eastern Caribbean
of the banana trade, many St. Lucia farmers have
lost their livelihoods. In response, World
Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), the
Organization of American States' (OAS) Inter-
American Institute for Cooperation on
Agriculture (IICA) and OAS Federal Credit Union
are collaborating on an initiative to strengthen
Laborie Credit Union on St. Lucia island to
increase small farmers' access to financial
Since the market collapse, small farmers have
turned to producing fresh
fruits and vegetables for sale to local
supermarkets and the burgeoning hotel and resort
industry. Many hotels continue to buy foodstuffs
offshore, but as hotels began to fill for the
region's Cricket World Cup games this month,
suppliers have found an insufficient supply to
meet the increased demand.
(l-r) Lucius Ellevic, Laborie Credit Union manager, Calderón and Brian Branch, WOCCU chief operating officer.
Farmers such as Olivia Felicien and her
have found Laborie Credit Union ready to lend a
helping hand in financing new endeavors that
enable them to support their families but have
found it difficult to maintain a livelihood
supplying to the hotel industry.
"Hotels are difficult to sell to," Felicien
pointed out. "They receive the produce and give
us a receipt, but we cannot collect cash until
60 or 90 days have passed."
World Council, IICA and OAS FCU have
joint project to help small farmers meet this
market demand. IICA will assist farmers in
producing consistent quality vegetables, train
farmers in building greenhouses and help farmers
comply with international standards. Through the
credit union, farmers will be able to receive
immediate cash advances with a receipt of
delivery from the hotels. The credit union will
then collect on the receivable from the hotel
within 90 days, depositing the remaining cash
directly to the members' savings account.
"Financing agriculture is always risky,"
Credit Union manager, Lucius Ellevic,
said. "But if we can help our members buy
land, put in irrigation systems, build
greenhouses or construct piggeries, we help them
reduce those risks and grant them greater
Brian Branch, World Council chief operating
officer, explained: "OAS FCU and World Council
will assist Laborie to strengthen operations and
introduce agribusiness lending products around
the six- to 12-week production cycles of local
crops with appropriate risk management to
protect the soundness of the credit union."
A group of people marginalized from the
financial sector founded Laborie Credit Union in
1976 as a community development initiative.
Today, Laborie Credit Union is a rural community
credit union whose more than 7,000 members are
predominately farmers and fishermen. It is the
third largest of 16 total credit unions on St.
Lucia that serve a total of 56,000 members.
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.