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Mexican women benefit from new kind of banks.

In the coffee growing regions of Southern Oaxaca, Mexico, a new kind of bank for woman is opening this spring. Non-profit "Village banks" will be opening in five rural Mexican communities to provide women with the opportunity to take out small, low interest rate loans and launch their own local micro-business. The communities are those where the coffee cooperatives of the farmer-owned Aztec Harvests Coffee Company are located; funds for the banks are being generated through sales of the cooperatives' coffee.

Village Banks, a micro-enterprise leading program which services women in rural areas of developing countries, will provide the Oaxacan women with savings facilities, access to loans, and training so that they can eventually take over administration of the banks. "The Village banks program understands that woman play a pivotal role in the rural communities of Mexico," said Francisco (Paco) Zavaleta, president of Aztec Harvests Coffee Company. "Funding development programs that can tap the business ability of the women here is essential if our communities are to live up to their potential."

The new development project is the result of a special partnership among members of the specialty coffee industry: Thanksgiving Coffee Company, a Northern California gourmet roaster; Coffee Kids, a non profit organization and facilitator of the Village Banks program; and Aztec Harvests cooperatives.

The Thanksgiving Coffee Company sells Aztec coffee and sets aside 15 [cents] for each pound of coffee it sells for development projects in the rural communities where Aztec cooperatives are located. Paul Katzeff, Thanksgiving Coffee Company ceo and roastmaster, believes that his company is building a more healthy relationship between producers and consumers by putting the farmers first.

"At Thanksgiving, we look beyond the coffee and focus on the welfare of the campesinos who pick the beans," said Katzeff. Thanksgiving's donation of $5,000 to the building of the banks will be supplemented by funds from Aztec's other sales.

"Although each bank has a membership of only 20 to 50 women," said Susan Wood, executive director of Coffee Kids, it really has a ripple effect: the businesses and income generated through the bank affect the women's families and eventually their whole community."
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Title Annotation:International Report; 'Village Banks' program to make loans for local enterprises
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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