Observations of our colleague Lenka Jůvová from a three-week internship in the Mexican cooperative IHP

Before I left for my 3 weeks internship in cooperative in Mexican state Oaxaca, I had noticed that coordinator of the internship had checked my profile on professional social network LinkedIn. That means that 1) they do prepare for my arrival, 2) their knowledge of social networking won’t be bad. Despite of the fact that the cooperative is located and its employees live in the village San Pablo Huixtepec of eight thousands inhabitants in agricultural and one of the poorest region in Mexico.

The IHP office is big, simply furnished. Its 3 employees work from 9 AM till 5 PM from Monday till Friday and till 1 PM on Saturday. The Saturday work is to facilitate loan repayments, depositing and withdrawing money for clients who don’t live in San Pablo. It’s not only office work, some days they go to notary or land register in Zimatlan, which is 5 kilometers away, they visit clients delayed in repayments in San Pablo or travel 30 kilometers to Oaxaca to deposit cash. But the rule, although not always complied, is to be in two in the office, because of the clients and security. To hold up the small cooperative without CCTV might be tempting. Safe, security alarm and baton to defend can’t be missing in the office.

“The philosophy of IHP (which is the abbreviation of cooperative name meaning Tireless to progress) is to be the driving force for increase and development of locality”, says Luis, the cooperative employee.

The working team of three is well-balanced. Luis is innovator, Nelba rational and Armando fast at numbers. Luis and Nelba, spouses and colleagues, are involved in IHP a lot. Their work and family life diffuse into each other, and moreover Nelba manages her own candy shop. As many others in San Pablo she has more than one job. That’s how having own business in Mexican provinces is.

The biggest loan we assigned during my three weeks stay was loan of 200 thousands Mexican pesos (around 300 thousand Czech crowns) for enlargement of stationary, family enterprise with nearly 30 years of history, which is managed by Elizabeth and her mother. In San Pablo there is big demand for loans, for example the local cheese factory which produce traditional cheese from Oaxaca “quesillo” would use loan to extend production, local taxi drivers to buy new taxis, farmers to buy seeds and livestock. What is missing is money. Neither earnings from own enterprises nor money sent from relatives living in USA are sufficient. Since 2008 due to the economical crises many Mexicans in USA have lost their jobs and stopped sending money to their families in Mexico or even returned back home.

Why are cooperatives for the development of local communities so important?

Cooperative allows members to save and borrow at relatively favorable interest rates. Thanks to personal knowledge of clients, interest on loans may be lower and on deposits higher than those offered by banks as the cooperative can easier estimate the risk. Cooperative also lends to clients, which are unbankable for standard financial institutions, for example, due to lack of proof of their income. Regarding cooperatives it is important that clients are also members who are involved in decision-making through the General Assembly. Members also elect administrative and supervisory board. The goal of each cooperative should be the development of areas where it operates.

 

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