Weaving towards a better future in Uruguay
Since the opening of our Uruguay office in 1983, Oikocredit has worked to make financial and social impacts across the country. For the past six years, this has been made possible by our dedicated country manager, Cecilia Maroño, who works closely with each of our partners in Uruguay. We recently spoke with Cecilia to hear about the work she’s been doing in her region, particularly with the wool sector.
In Uruguay, Oikocredit finances farmers' cooperative COPAGRAN, wool processing cooperative Central Lanera Uruguaya and fair trade women's organization Manos del Uruguay, which are all part of the wool value chain. COPAGRAN collects the wool from its members and sends it to Central Lanera Uruguaya which then processes the wool and sends it to Manaos del Uruguay, which designs garments that its member, Cooperativa Artesenal Tambores (COTAM), a small rural women’s cooperative, knits and weaves.
Oikocredit finances COPAGRAN, Central Lanera Uruguaya and Manos del Uruguay. What are the advantages of financing all value chain partners in the wool sector?
"As the country manager, it makes it easier for me as I follow the wool market and therefore know the state of all the businesses. Wool is one of Uruguay's traditional products and it is strongly linked to the development of our rural areas. Also, sheep farming is typically done by Uruguay's lowest income farmers in the lower production lands. By helping these partners, Oikocredit helps the entire range of people working with wool, from the cooperative farmers of COPAGRAN, to the wool combing mill cooperative of Central Lanera Uruguaya to the rural women of COTAM that handcraft garments for Manos del Uruguay.”
You’ve worked with Oikocredit for a number of years, what have been the most rewarding moments for you as country manager?
"It's hard to summarize. I'm in contact every day with our partners and have shared many special moments with them. Some of my most special moments are landmarks, like when something we helped build is inaugurated. One inauguration which was especially touching for me was when Hospital Evangélico opened a new Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and Neonatology Unit financed by Oikocredit. This saves lives of premature babies and children.
There are also very rewarding moments when partners finish paying their loans and I give them back the titles of their properties and we lift their mortgages. It is very rewarding for our partners to finish a commitment, having paid all their obligations and having built something.
Most times, the reward comes from knowing that the work you do is good and that you work for an organization with solid moral values. It's extra special to work every day side by side with partners that trust us and appreciate all our work. It's also very rewarding to meet our investors who trust us with their own personal savings and have so much passion and confidence in what we do."
Financing Manos del Uruguay demanded a considerable amount of time and effort on your side. How would you describe Oikocredit's partnership with Manos del Uruguay?
"It has been a great joy to be able to support Manos. All of the people involved are very committed and driven, which is infectious. We started working with Manos because it had no access to the banking system. This was due to financial problems back in the 80s and also because of its low net results, as Manos tries to give as much as possible back to its artisans. I'm always in touch with Manos and it's always a thrill to visit their store and see the wonderful garments they produce."