Study tour heads to Ecuador
This year Oikocredit’s annual study tour will take place in Ecuador. Groups of staff, volunteers, members and investors will visit partners and their end-clients in the country’s coastal and highland regions from 8 to 14 May 2016.
The annual study tours provide Oikocredit investors, staff and volunteers with the opportunity to learn more about the financing of microfinance institutions (MFIs) and social enterprises. Study tour participants will meet with Oikocredit staff and partners to experience how Oikocredit contributes to financial inclusion and women’s economic empowerment in rural and urban areas of Ecuador.
Although Ecuador is rich in natural resources it is heavily dependent on petroleum (half of the country's export earnings and around 25% of public sector revenues). The fall in oil prices has had a significant impact on the public budget.
Despite the success of Ecuador’s National Plan for Good Living Development (Buen Vivir) and its status as an oil exporter, poverty, exclusion, health care, gender equality, and inequality remain key problems for the country and affect vulnerable groups such as women, children, indigenous people and rural populations. The Buen Vivir plan is primarily based on social inclusion and devotes attention to natural resource management. Ecuador is going through a transition from a food-aid recipient country to one with an increasing national responsibility to address hunger and malnutrition.
Oikocredit’s role in Ecuador
Oikocredit works in Ecuador through a country office in Quito established in October 2004, but operations in the country date from the very beginnings of Oikocredit. In fact, the first loan application was disbursed in 1978 to FEPP. The team consists of three people: country manager Lorena Torres, project officer Patricio Torres and administrative assistant Yadhira Oñate. Oikocredit in Ecuador is one of the few international social investors with a strong presence and a diversified network of partners across the country. There are about 40 international lenders funding the microfinance industry in Ecuador.
Over the last 10 years, Ecuador’s loan portfolio has been subject to dynamic growth. As at March 2016, the Ecuador country office had an outstanding balance portfolio of € 48.7 million distributed among 24 partners. The portfolio is heavily geared towards microfinance (more than 95%), with the remaining share in agriculture.
Study tour participants will visit Oikocredit’s partners to see first-hand the financial and social benefits Oikocredit has brought to the country. This will include meeting borrowers and employees of savings and credit cooperatives, and an organic coffee partner.