Winds of Peace Foundation &
Jose Alfredo Zeledon Cooperative
When representatives of the Winds of Peace Foundation (Winds of Peace) first made their way to the Jose Alfredo Zeledon (JAZ) coffee cooperative in San Juan del Rio Coco in Nicaragua in 2005, the small rural community there had little room in which to hold a formal meeting. They also largely lacked access to schools and financial credit. What they did have was a dynamic, visionary leader and a shared determination to develop their local economy through the cooperative.
Recognizing the potential of the community, Winds of Peace took a risk and made a $25,000 PRI directly to JAZ structured as a one-year, low-interest loan, which the farmers in the cooperative used as working capital to plant and maintain their fields during the harvest cycle. The entire loan was repaid with interest and on time.
Since its first PRI in 2006, Winds of Peace has made 6 PRIs to JAZ for a total of $200,000. Over time, the JAZ cooperative has made full use of the credit to develop economically. It established a cooperative store where farmers buy their seed, fertilizers, and other materials. The store also offers a formal meeting space for the community. Strategically, JAZ has even encouraged its members to diversify into new activities like beekeeping, so that the community is not dependent only on coffee production.
The work Winds of Peace has done with JAZ has had ripple effects in neighboring communities. In fact, JAZ has become somewhat of a model for other cooperatives in the territory, which look to JAZ for advice and example. JAZ has even served as an intermediary on behalf of other cooperatives with respect to other PRIs from Winds of Peace.
Since 1998, Winds of Peace has made 187 PRIs totaling over $11.7 million to organizations in Nicaragua, often directly to rural cooperatives like JAZ. Despite having a PRI portfolio that many would consider to be higher risk, Winds of Peace reports being in arrears on less than 2% of its loan principal. It came as a bit of a surprise to the Winds of Peace that it had made the most PRIs of all Minnesota private foundations during this study period. “We simply have found that PRIs work well for us and our goals, and so we make use of them,” said their Executive Director, “We’re amazed that PRIs are not more frequently utilized. We certainly would encourage others to consider PRIs as well.”