Oikocredit, Ecumenical Development Cooperative Society (Oikocredit) is a worldwide cooperative society, dedicated to promoting social and economic justice by challenging people, churches, nonprofit organizations, and others to share their resources through socially responsible investments and by empowering disadvantaged people with credit. Oikocredit makes low-interest loans to more than 665 cooperatives and microcredit institutions in over 69 countries. In 33 years, Oikocredit has circulated millions of dollars and returned all loans
Oikocredit loans are directed at groups, such as cooperatives, fair trade cooperatives, microfinance institutions, or trade associations. Oikocredit raises loan capital with the help of Support Associations, which raise the awareness of people in their region about the importance of development and ethical investments. Through the Associations the investments of individuals, local congregations, religious orders and parishes are channeled to Oikocredit. Loans are then made based on specific criteria:
- People: The enterprise must benefit groups of disadvantaged people and contribute to the social and economic advancement of the community.
- Groups: The cooperative structure is favored where applicable because beneficiaries participate directly in the operation and management of the business.
- Women: Preference is given to enterprises in which women are direct beneficiaries and in which they participate in decision-making, structures and procedures.
- Viability: The enterprise must be economically viable, with appropriate management and technical leadership, and become self-sustaining within a reasonable period of time.
- Need: There must be a clear need for foreign investment which can be provided within terms that can secure the necessary government approvals and are beneficial to the project partners.
- Fair Trade: fair trade enterprises are favored as a way to promote additional poverty reduction. Oikocredit considers fair finance to be part of the fair trade movement.
Investments by individuals as well as institutions, such as Calvert Foundation, provide the lending capital to Oikocredit.
Oikocredit serves rural, poor communities in 69 countries on five continents worldwide. The Oikocredit concept is mainly carried by the investments of its 527 members: 467 churches and church-related organizations, 33 Support Associations (representing over 30,000 individuals, parishes and congregations), the Oikocredit International Share Foundation and 27 project partners.
Oikocredit's division of projects by region is as follows: Latin America (40%), Africa (14%), Central and Eastern Europe (18%), Asia (27%), Other (1%). The organization is currently serving individuals in these communities through 758 projects.
Oikocredit has achieved new record levels of credit approvals and disbursements. According to reports, by the end of 2008, 80% of all Oikocredit development financing outstanding was placed in the hands of 419 Microfinance Institutions across the globe, which create jobs and income for hundreds of thousands of people in their immediate context. The remaining 20% goes to cooperatives. Mixed economic performances worldwide have increased demand for Oikocredit loans, and were reflected in a record number of USD $254 million in credit approvals. Compared to 2007, this is an increase of 13%. Disbursals also rose to USD $250 million, an increase of 32%.
Edgar comes from a family of coffee growers. Today, he has a family of his own and a seven-hectare coffee plantation to support them. Working with Coopetarrazú, a cooperative supported by Oikocredit, means that his beans have been certified fair trade and he receives a premium price for them. The coop’s sustainability program has taught him new techniques that protect both the environment and his workers. Oikocredit supports coffee cooperatives that process and commercialize the coffee production of more than 2,400 farmers. The direct beneficiaries are the 2,445 associates of the cooperative and their families. Full Story