WPF approach to credit has evolved over time. Impressed with the microcredit movement, WPF initially invested in multinational microcredit organizations like Accion and Opportunity to get capital into the hands of the poor. Then soon WPF moved directly to supporting Nicaraguan microcredit organizations because they were reaching the agricultural sector, where most poor Nicaraguans make their living.
Small farmer access to credit from the formal banking system was cut nearly overnight with the implementation of Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF) policies in the 1990s, which began a rollback in the agrarian reform of the 80s. As a result, NITLAPAN, a research and development institute at the Central American University in Managua, founded the Local Development Fund, to provide access to credit to the small scale farmers, a sector that continues to be a challenge for the larger microcredit movement. Since the 1990s WPF has invested in that fund in support of that initiative.
WPF was also one of the first lenders to the newly formed second tier coffee cooperatives (that process and sell the coffee produced by 1st tier producer cooperatives), making some of the first loans to PRODECOOP so they could buy coffee from their producer cooperative members.
Then WPF moved to directly lend to grassroots cooperatives, particularly 1st tier cooperatives, both locally owned savings and loan cooperatives (like Hand in Hand Bank run by peasant women in Waslala) and producer cooperatives, especially coffee cooperatives involved in fair trade and organic production. The need for cash to respond to family needs throughout the year forced coffee farmers to sell most of their future crop to intermediaries, who only paid them 30% of the value they would have obtained at harvest time. With more access to credit, their own cooperatives could lend them the money and ensure that the producers received the full value of their production.
WPF continues to follow the research of organizations like NITLAPAN, and does its own research to further refine its loan practices to ensure that their impact advances the expansion of human capabilities of the local peasant organizations, especially women in the countryside.
Web English http://www.nitlapan.org.ni/
Web Spanish http://www.nitlapan.org.ni/index.php
Active Peasants of Jalapa Multiple Service Cooperatives (CCAJ)
Following the change in government in February 1990, two young people and a missionary came together and collaborated in the process of helping to legalize cooperatives and their lands in the area of Jalapa. While cooperatives existed under an agrarian reform law, the lands of the cooperatives were not legalized and the government had retained a monopoly over the commercialization of most agricultural crops. These three activists helped local peasants to gain legal ownership of their lands and promoted the marketing of the products produced there, starting as a peasant farmer education project and resulting in the creation of CCAJ.
CCAJ is one of the best known and widely-respected cooperatives in Nicaragua, due to their history, their leadership in post-war reconciliation efforts in the area, their successes and the socio-political voice that they have given to rural producers. WPF has supported the group since 2000, providing funding for member production, education, organizational development and strategic planning.