Ukrainian credit unions have now issued more than 1,000 loans through the $1 million USAID/Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions’ (WFCU) Liquidity Fund.
Originally established in April 2021 to help credit unions affiliated with World Council of Credit Unions’ (WOCCU) Credit for Agriculture Producers (CAP) Project expand agricultural lending, the Liquidity Fund took on an expanded purpose after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
$1 million from the Liquidity Fund was disbursed to two United Credit Unions (UCUs), the central financing facilities for more than 60 Ukrainian credit unions. The UCUs then passed the money on to individual credit unions through low-interest loans, which allowed them to increase their own lending to agricultural producers.
Many credit unions working with agricultural and rural micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in the east and south of Ukraine suspended their lending activities due to the uncertainty and high risk the war presented for both the institutions and their borrowers. But agricultural producers in areas of western and central Ukraine who were less affected by the war began to express a demand for new loans to bolster the country’s food security.
As of June 2023, CAP Project partner credit unions had disbursed a total of 1,142 Liquidity Fund loans worth $2.83 million to MSMEs in Ukraine.
809 of those loans, totaling nearly $2 million, were issued during wartime.
Oleksandr Karelin, a pig breeder from Kyiv Oblast and member of “Kredyt-Ekspert” credit union, was one of hundreds of small farmers who benefited from the Liquidity Fund in 2023. He lacked the funding needed to purchase enough fodder for his herd amid inflation and price increases caused by the ongoing war. As a result, Karelin took out a micro loan at Kredyt-Ekspert.
‘“We are a small family business, so timely access to finance means a lot to us. That’s why we chose a credit union,” explained Karelin.
During the first half of this year, credit unions financed $930,000 in agricultural loans through the Liquidity Fund, 34% more than during the same period in 2022. The most recent quarter (March to June 2023) was especially active, with credit union member farmers taking out agricultural loans worth a total of $615,000—accounting for more than 20% of all loans disbursed since the launch of the Liquidity Fund.