The UNICAS of Peru

Peruvian peasants created the Union of Credit and Savings to make their daily lives easier.

In the vast mountain region of Peru there are hardly any banks, people are usually paid in cash or even in barter, but some "mamachas", as popularly known to their humble peasants, manage microcredit associations to lend money, improve their quality of life And out of poverty.

They are known as the "Únicas" (Union of Credit and Savings), entrepreneurs in the middle of a rural setting, with scarce resources, and where frost, which arrive in winter at 15 degrees below zero, destroy crops and kill hundreds of heads of cattle, which exacerbates the precariousness of their already stumbling pockets.

Faced with these difficulties, the "mamachas" launched a system of loans managed by them, with the advice of the Joint Program of Andean Grains (GAAP), a United Nations initiative to improve the living conditions of thousands of farmers In the Peruvian regions of Ayacucho and Puno.

They are people who were not in the habit of saving a single sun a month, and now they are saving. Some have savings of 200 or 300 soles,less than one hundred dollars.

Once a month, the peasants gather to contribute their respective share until they raise an amount to the benefit of one of them, who will return it with a small interest of 3%, amount that will accumulate with that of the rest of later loans to be distributed at the end of the year.

"We are being helped a lot because the bank does not lend us any speed and it also charges us with high interest rates," explained the treasurer of the "Unique" ones of the Molloco peasant community, Jacinta Mamani, of the municipality of Acora. Region of Puno, whose association has fifteen members.

With these credits, women farmers buy natural products to protect their organic quinoa from pests, buy wool to craft embroidery and buy animals for their rudimentary farms.

The president of the "Unicas" of the peasant community of Batalla, Benjamina Gonzalo, told Efe that the bank requires a lot of paperwork in order to obtain a loan, whereas with its members the credit obtains almost instantly, and they only ask for a copy of the national identity document (DNI).

"Money also serves us for emergencies, such as when we get sick from a child, and what we gather, remains for us," said Gonzalo, whose community is located in the municipality of Pomata, very close to the border of Peru with Bolivia.

In Batalla are a dozen women in the "Unique", but at the beginning were six more, who dissociated by the disapproval of their husbands, according to the peasant woman puneña.

"It seems that their husbands do not let them. They do not understand, and they did not like that they trained us," said Gonzalo, who hopes to obtain the necessary resources to export his quinoa directly abroad.

With the approval or not of their husbands, these groups of "mamachas" want to consolidate as an example of entrepreneurship outside the traditional banking system in one of the poorest areas of Latin America, faithful to their goals and owners of their own money.

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