Nicaragua: UNAG Opens First Private Agricultural Bank (1994)



by Toby Mailman

Passing with little notice outside of Nicaragua, the Nicaraguan National
Farmers and Ranchers Union (UNAG) in August opened their own cooperative
private bank, call BANCAM, the bank of thecountryside, or in Spanish, Banco
del Campo.

On August 11, 1994, the daily newspaper "Barricada" reported that on August
9th, "President Violeta de Chamorro inaugurated the main offices of the new
Banco del Campo, the first financial institution in the country which
focuses on agricultural producers.

"BANCAM is an initiative of the National Farmers and Ranchers
Union, which has financial support from four international
organizations and the backing in the form shareholding from
thousands of small-, medium- and large-scale producers from all over the

"Government officials and leaders of the state and private banks were at
the inauguration, including the superintendent of banks, Angel Navarro, and
the president of the National Bank, Dr. Juan Alvaro Munguia.

"UNAG president Daniel Nunez pointed out the importance for the
agricultural sector of the initiation of the Banco del Campo, which aims to
give credit to sectors which currently do not have access to traditional

"Although BANCAM will be run within normal banking parameters, asking for
guarantees for the payment of its loans, it will have alternative programs
to give assistance to small-scale producers.

"Among its initial plans the bank intends to make available to producers $3
million to facilitate the most recent planting season.

"In addition, the bank is proposing to be the intermediary for some
resources which the international financial organizations have made
available to the Nicaraguan private bank, through the Nicaraguan Investment
Financial Organization (FNI).

"BANCAM will provide all the services which other state and private banks
currently provide, such as checking accounts, savings accounts and other
operations." [Barricada (Managua, Nicaragua) 8/11/94]

Since the end of the contra war in Nicaragua, UNAG has taken the lead in
true "reconciliation" among people who were previously enemies.  UNAG has
been successful in joining Sandinistas, former contra and former armed
ex-Sandinista soldiers in a common struggle for land, tools, seeds, and
financing to be able to return to their lives as campesinos.  The opening
of this bank is not only a precedent-setting achievement for UNAG's leaders
and membership; it is also a major step toward Nicaragua's farmers and
ranchers freeing themselves from the state and private banks, with former
members of opposing sides having a hand together in controlling their own
financial futures.

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