MST partners with financier to fund co-ops at low rates in Brazil’s northeast

The initiative seeks to offer funding to cooperatives at lower interest rates than banks

Translated by: Ítalo Piva

Brasil de Fato | São Paulo |
The Santa Rita Agricultural Cooperative, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, was the first ever Finapop beneficiary - Reprodução/ Coopan

The Landless Workers Movement (MST) launched on Monday (29th) the Finapop (Investment for the Masses) program, a proposal aimed at boosting production on family farms at lower interest rates than at banks.

The initiative, created in partnership with former investment banker Eduardo Moreira, seeks to offer lines of credit to cooperatives in the nine states of the northeast.

From the beginning, three cooperatives are being contemplated for the program: The Regional Cooperative of Settler Farmers and Settlers from Land Reform (Cooperamel), in the state of Ceará, the Cooperative of Cashew Farmers, and the Mixed Cooperative of Itapecuru Vale (Coopevi), both in the state of Bahia.

The idea behind the project is to gather resources from small and medium investors and channel the capital to the activities of the cooperatives involved, stimulating the segment’s production chain.

“Finapop is a movement. Whose idea is it? Good ideas have no boss, no owner. What we are looking for is to guide the spirit that is already there. It’s like uniting the consumer with the farmer”, explained João Pedro Stédile, from MST’s directorate, during the program’s launch.

He highlighted that the resources will not be used exclusively for the production of healthy food for the people. “We will not use these funds to buy poison, to buy from multinationals, to feed the financial market. Finapop is a lot more like a movement, an idea”.

Eduardo Moreira appealed to investors, asking them to contribute to Finapop instead of leaving their money stalled at the banks.

“What kind of world do you want to finance with your money? If you could earn the same amount you are earning with a savings account at a bank, but instead of pouring this money into a world you don’t believe in, what if, this money went to a community that produces honey, produces milk or organic foods? Financially, for you, everything will be the same as before, however, it will be much better for the world”, said Moreira.

According to Lucineia Durãs, who represents cashew farmers, the fund could directly impact 1000 families belonging to the cooperative.

“Our perspective is one of struggle against barriers. The barriers of fear, the barriers of hunger, the ones imposed by large land owners, ignorance and a lack of access. That is why the possibility of using Finapop is fundamental to us accomplishing our dream of a cashew region that is more sustainable, with more smiles on the faces of producers and consumers, we salute this”.

Sheila Rodrigues, from Cooperamel, also mentioned the economic gains this type of financing may bring the families.

“This funding will do more than finance, it will multiply. We will see an increase of more than 40% in the families’ income, and create jobs for 200 people, no need to mention the direct benefits the harvesters themselves will get”.

Maria Alzerina Carneiro, from Coopevi, sees the proposal as a way of providing people with healthier foods. “We would like to increase our flour production in order to make it available to all workers, from the countryside as well as the city”.

Support from the Consortium

The Northeastern Consortium, a group comprised by the governors in the region, supports Finapop and the governors of the state of Maranhão and Piauí too part in the launch.

Governor Flávio Dino, from Maranhão, thanked MST for the initiative and talked of the importance of manioc flour in the local economy, saying, “It’s impossible for us to create a project to combat inequality without taking this base into account, manioc. Here, we eat manioc flour everyday”.

Governor Wellington Dias, from Piauí, hopes that the project will bring good results to all northeastern states.

“We are able to raise funds here in the nine states, with people working, there is also the possibility of other revenue streams”.

Edited by: Rodrigo Chagas