Sharing experiences with COOPEFACSA, a model built to face the Nicaraguan crisis

13th of November 2019

INTERVIEW – For nearly 25 years, Philea’s mission has been to support its members in Latin America and Africa by providing financial and non-financial support. With 34% of our Cooperative’s portfolio invested in Nicaragua, the political crisis that created an unprecedented economic crisis in the country was countered by Cooperativa San Antonio (COOPEFACSA). Through the implementation of concrete actions to reassure its members, COOPEFACSA has obtained results that are admirable and that could lead to a financial education project to support our other members in the country. Feedback from Adela Baez, COOPEFACSA’s General Director and newly elected member of Philea’s Board of Directors, on the important points of her success.

In September, Philea interviewed Adela Baez, newly elected to Philea’s Board of Directors, to discuss the situation in Nicaragua and the success of the San Antonio Cooperative (COOPEFACSA) model.

A member since 2013, COOPEFACSA received its first credit in 2017 to help members of its community who have little or no access to financial services. In a country where the informal economy predominates, improving the capacities of everyone is essential to ensure long-term development. Through financial and economic inclusion, local beneficiaries have access to a formal financial system that allows them to develop their activity, especially reaching rural areas and supporting small farmers.

Embracing Philea’s values perfectly, COOPEFACSA has demonstrated through our collaboration the strong social impact it has, especially through the support it provides to its members.

It has recently demonstrated this quality by facing the political and economic pressures in Nicaragua. As Adela Báez points out in her interview, in the face of growing fears of final beneficiaries, insecurity in the financial system and professional instability, the Cooperative’s management has decided to transform these events into opportunities “in order to strengthen the foundations and values that have made the creation of the Cooperative possible”. It was observed, for example, that while there was a significant outflow of bank assets throughout the country (34% in traditional banks), COOPEFACSA only suffered from this event by 7%. Why?

Management quickly became aware of the negative consequences of the political crisis on the economy. “Financial stress accompanied by emotional stress has had an unfavourable impact on society as a whole, especially on employed people. To address these problems, COOPEFACSA has focused on transparency and communication. Aware of the need to “calm members’ concerns in the face of the avalanche of information in the media”, COOPEFACSA set up an information committee to collect all the information in the media in order to analyse and explain it. In addition, some members were offered financial capacity building as well as support to the management bodies. The aim of these different actions was to strengthen the capacities of different groups and individuals, as well as to see a cooperative organize itself as a group, thus going beyond simple financial logic. More flexible repayment plans were also developed with members who had the most difficulty repaying.

This is why COOPEFACSA is an example, above all thanks to its rapid reactivity and the innovative ideas proposed to support each of its members.

This story was therefore the trigger of a project: it is planned to prepare an exchange of experiences between this cooperative and the other members in the country. In Philea, we are committed to creating a network of solidarity while providing technical support to overcome this crisis with as few negative consequences as possible. As Adela Baez explains, “good management requires innovation, but also loyalty, empowerment and truly sustainable financing”.

This lesson is essential for all of us: solidarity among members allows those who encounter difficulties to be pushed upwards. This notion of ethics is what drives Philea today to wish to share this experience and the technical support with the help of COOPEFACSA and its dynamic director, Adela Baez.