57-year old Cecilia Mantilla is a community leader from Pedro Moncayo district in Ecuador’s Northern highlands. Cecilia is passionate about the economic empowerment of her home communities where most people make a living from agriculture and food processing, sewing, and handicraft.

What they often lack is access to markets and to affordable credit. Since 2017, Cecilia has been involved in setting up and operating nearly 30 community banks, so-called cajitas comunitarias de crédito. Most of the participants in these savings-and-loan groups are women (70%), 4 in 10 are single mothers. The groups combine their internal savings with loans from ECLOF to boost the capital available to their members. In the last years, loans from ECLOF have funded the economic activities of over 650 families in the area. As Cecilia highlights, this did not even stop during the COVID crisis. She rejoices: “Loans from ECLOF have given women from our communities the resources they needed to invest in their income-generating activities, whether it be agriculture, trade or small production. They especially enjoyed the training ECLOF provided in areas like business and entrepreneurship, pride and self-esteem, and financial literacy.”