Local correspondents: keystone of the Philea strategy

April 16, 2019

In the evolution of the Philea strategy, the function of the local correspondent within Philea takes on a more important role. Sometimes supporting the Headquarters in Geneva, sometime seeking potential projects, the local correspondent is above all the link between the field and the cooperative and uses his exceptional local knowledge to better comprehend and control risky situations. To better understand this role, we spoke with Jamir Contreras, our local correspondent in charge of Central America, who analysed his function and collaboration with Philea as well as the delicate political situation in Nicaragua and its impact on our activities.

 

Presentations

Jamir Contreras (JC), correspondent for Philea since 2011, is passionately committed to the cooperative. Moving across Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala, he uses his network to identify microfinance institutions and agricultural cooperatives with a similar vision and seeking to develop their activities, particularly in the agricultural sector. He talks about his experience with these countries, which represent “very different realities”.

Role of the local correspondent

JC explained that the main role of the local correspondent, and in particular the mission he has given himself, is the risk management. When a situation becomes more complicated, he considers “having a duty to alert Philea and find appropriate solutions depending on the local partner, the problem to be solved and the situation in the country”. While he finds that current investments in El Salvador are encouraging, the situation in Nicaragua is more complicated.

The crisis in Nicaragua

The severe political crisis affecting the country since April 2018 has been an instability marker at several levels, mainly economic. For JC, “poor families are the first to suffer the impact of this situation, particularly because of banking restrictions, higher taxes and, above all, unemployment”. He then explained that “the loss of confidence in politicians leads to an outflow of liquidity from banks, which considerably aggravates the crisis”. After the abruptly stopped negotiations of March 2019, the situation in Nicaragua remains particularly complicated and has an impact on the daily lives of agricultural producers and microfinance institutions. Aware of the situation, JC choses to remain optimistic and gives the example of COOPEFACSA, a credit/saving cooperative, which “has been able to adapt to the difficulties by focusing above all on human resources, particularly by applying the tools offered as part of the financial education”. To this day, COOPEFACSA still reimburses its loan without too much difficulty and continues its mission.

Development cooperation

If some institutions are doing better than others in the same country, what good practices can be put in place? For JC, regular file monitoring and the network are important elements that prevent him from letting a delicate situation get worse. Nevertheless, he remains convinced that “true development, one that leads to profound changes, such as a significant reduction in poverty, is built by going beyond the simple logic of survival”. For him, support for the so-called southern populations requires “moving from a culture of passivity to a culture of action, where development is in the hands of the indigenous people”. He concluded by saying that “today, it is no longer acceptable for the poor to continue to be poor”.

Final considerations – and Philea in all this?

Philea’s whole job is to help restrain this trend. Philea invests in brilliant projects arising from its local partners, who are looking for the source of funding they have often missed, due to a certain mistrust from traditional financial institutions.

Philea’s role is to support these projects with a strong social impact and a high development impact. With the objective of making investments sustainable, technical support projects are very important because they help to fill the more or less problematic gaps of our partners in terms of management or to avoid over-indebtedness and help them achieve their objectives. The local correspondent participates in this work through his involvement, his efforts, his regular exchanges between the field and the cooperative, and as mentioned by JC, through his great capacity for adaptation.

Many thanks to all the local correspondents for their work: Jamir Contreras (Central America), Sergio Cortez (Peru), Jean-Paul Kiendrebeogo (West Africa), Oscar Rwasa (Burundi), Mbaye Sarr (Senegal) Antonio Javier Vaca Espin (Ecuador).

And a big thank to Jamir Contreras, who kindly accepted to answer our questions for the realization of this article.

 

Comments collected and texts written by Sonia Rodríguez