Oikocredit continues operations in Ecuador following devastating earthquake
Lorena Torres, country manager Ecuador
On 16 April 2016, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the coast of Ecuador, killing 661 people and injuring 27,732*. Oikocredit Ecuador staff, based in Quito were not in areas affected by the earthquake. Since this first earthquake a number of small ones have followed, as well as tremors and aftershocks.
Concerning Oikocredit’s current partners in the country, the central and northern highlands of Ecuador, where almost 60% of active projects are located, have not been affected by the earthquake.
In Ecuador’s coastal region, one of the areas worst hit by the earthquake, the activities of our partners working in cocoa farming, namely Fortaleza del Valle in Manabí and FONMSOEAM in the Esmeraldas, have been seriously affected. The products (cocoa beans and chocolate) and infrastructure (warehouses) of both partners have been damaged as well as farmers’ homes.
Disaster relief funds
Oikocredit’s staff in Ecuador were in contact with all partners and have applied for and received disaster relief funding for two partners; Fortaleza del Valle and FONMSOEAM. Both received one-off payments of € 5,000 in solidarity from Oikocredit. For FONMSOEAM, the money will be provided to 10 farmers who lost their homes in the earthquake. Fortaleza del Valle will use the fund to help fix its gathering centre.
Many clients of Oikocredit’s microfinance partners in the coastal region (ESPOIR, D-MIRO, FODEMI, INSOTEC, Cooprogreso, FUNDAMIC, Solidario, Guayaquil) have been affected by the earthquake, which will likely impact operations and loan repayments.
Lorena Torres, Oikocredit’s country manager for Ecuador, said: “Our priority right now is to support our partners affected by the earthquake with flexible funding conditions so that they can continue their core business operations and also support their own operations and microfinance clients.”
In mid-May, Oikocredit’s annual study tour travelled to Ecuador, where participants met with microfinance and agricultural organizations. Numerous Oikocredit microfinance partners reported during the study tour that they are busy re-structuring loans to their affected clients, including ‘grace periods’ of three months for clients, with no obligation to repay their lending instalments. Other microfinance partners have also reported that they are currently developing social and economic programmes to help their clients affected by this disaster.