Credit union support in times of crisis

By Angelo Moniz Jong, CUFA Timor Leste Country Program Manager

At 6am on the morning of the 11th March, a fire broke out in Covalima Market in Southwest Timor Leste. Despite the best efforts of several firefighting crews, much of the 300 retailers who operate out of the district market lost their stores and all of their stock. No major injuries or fatalities were reported.

Five vendors in the market are part of CUFA’s Village Entrepreneur Program, helping individuals to start sustainable business as a long term solution to poverty. The individuals had their livelihoods desimated in the fire but are all looking to rebuild their stores, stocks and lives.

The Government is working with local authorities, credit unions and individual vendors to assess the extent of the damage and monetary loss to retailers, while also moving vendors to a new market to enable them to continue to operate their business.

CUFA has been able to assist in getting both members of the credit unions and the VEs back on their feet. The Credit Union Outreach Program’s Project Coordinator, Martinho Soares, has been providing technical assistance to the credit unions and members by helping them reconstruct accounts that were lost in the fire. Support has also been provided to the Village Entrepreneurs (VE). To ensure that the businesses remain independent and sustainable, CUFA has advanced one round of funding to the affected VEs and provided logistical and financial advice, encouraging and helping the VE’s to rebuild.

CUFA has operated in the area for a number of years establishing the Credit Union Outreach (CUO) program which builds the capacity of local credit unions and the Village Entrepreneur (VE) program in three local credit unions. The credit unions are enormously valuable especially in times of crisis, to support one another as well as providing access to savings and loans for affected vendors and serving to advise members on the best way to rebuild their livelihoods.

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