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Why volunteer groups?

Oikocredit Support Associations are collectives of volunteers whose members are engaged in promoting Oikocredit’s mission. Volunteer associations are part of a long-standing tradition in Oikocredit’s work. In addition to being active volunteers for Oikocredit, Support Associations are members of the Oikocredit International cooperative.

Oikocredit has two Support Associations based in the US – the Western Pennsylvania Support Association and the Oikocredit Northwest Support Association based in Seattle. Click on the regions to learn more about how you can get involved in your local Support Association.

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Oikocredit expands relationships at SCAA

In April of 2016, three staff members from the U.S. and Peruvian offices represented Oikocredit at the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) event in Atlanta, Georgia.

Over 11,000 participants attended SCAA2016, which ran from April 14-17 and brought together coffee roasters, producers, wholesalers, traders, importers, lenders, baristas, and other actors along the coffee value chain.

Oikocredit participates annually in the event, and for the first time in 2016, sponsored a booth at the exhibition fair. Our staff used this space to meet with traders and producers we currently work with as well as to network and generate new contacts and potential partnerships across Latin America, Africa, Europe and Asia.

Hugo Villela, Regional Agribusiness Specialist, meets with representatives from coffee farmer cooperatives during SCAA2016

But behind all the hand shaking, networking, barista competitions, cupping trials, business dealing, and massive consumption of delicious coffee, there was an unspoken truth that the industry is at a crossroads and that changes will soon be taking place. Smallholder coffee producers continue to experience low yields compared to large farms, and climate change is wreaking havoc on these already low production levels in Central and South America. Peru alone has seen 20% declines in production in 2015 due to the Coffee Yeast Rust Fungus and the Coffee Berry. Once-thriving coffee plantations in Honduras are being converted into cacao farms given ever increasing world demand for chocolate and cacao’s greater resilience in the changing climate.  

As coffee prices have continued to drop significantly since 2014, smallholders often struggle to generate a sustainable income from coffee - even with fair trade and organic premiums. Although coffee continues to take the largest slice of the Oikocredit agri portfolio, from 2014-2015 the number of Peruvian coffee partners and active portfolio in coffee has declined.

Oikocredit remains committed to supporting the smallholder and, in order to combat these challenges in the coffee sector, works to:

  • improve farmer productivity;
  • install climate smart technologies to better control pests and diseases;
  • strengthen coffee farmer capacity to mitigate price risks;
  • and support socially conscience traders through bridge loans that offer cash. 

Oikocredit will have an even bigger presence at next year’s SCAA event taking place in Seattle, including being tabled as a speaker in the lecturing series.