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18. The single voice of a cooperative

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Coop Name: Oikocredit N° of Employees: 254
City: Amersfoort N° of Members: 815
Country: Netherlands Year of formation: 1975
Website: http://www.oikocredit.org Twitter: Link
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About this coop:

Oikocredit is a worldwide cooperative society. It promotes global justice by challenging people, churches and others to share their resources through socially responsible investments and by empowering disadvantaged people with credit. The Oikocredit name comes from the Greek “oiko” (house or community) and “credere” (to believe).

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A civil war raged in Guatemala from 1960 to 1996 – the longest civil war in Latin America’s history. In the Ixil Triangle, where Oikocredit project partner Asociación Chajulense (Chajul) operates today, thousands of civilians were killed, tortured or disappeared. The victims were predominantly Mayan descendants. Today, the coffee and honey farmers of Chajul – made up largely of these Mayan descendants – follow a traditional Mayan maxim: “work the soil without violence”. Chajul is a Guatemalan cooperative of coffee producers, which has marketed Fair Trade, organic coffee since 1989. Chajul’s full name means “One Single Voice”, and it now has around 1500 members from 60 different communities. The primary focus of Chajul is on processing and exporting coffee that is certified as both organic and Fair Trade, and sold under the SHB CHAJULENSE trademark. Chajul is environmentally focused, promoting a sustainable development model, ensuring all operations – from production to export – are ecologically safe, economically viable, socially fair and culturally appropriate. With the revenues from coffee exports, the association supports the surrounding communities with poverty alleviation projects, such as: education, environmental management and improvement of coffee production techniques. Miguel Tzoy, Chajul’s commercialization coordinator, said the association does more than provide a fair, commercial base for the farmers. “Our associates have also been trained in soil conservation, organic fertilization, waste management, recycling and shade management for coffee crops.” It allows farmers to produce higher quality produce. The organization prides itself in valuing the participation of women, and offering programmes that reinforce and strengthen the traditional Mayan culture. Chajul has been an Oikocredit project partner since 1990, when Oikocredit extended a loan of EUR 204,000. Since then, Chajul has received three additional loans totalling just over EUR 1 million.

Author of this story
Holly O'Connell
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