Brazil’s community banks provide a lifeline during the pandemic

There are 103 community banks spread across Brazil, operating in needy neighborhoods and often using their own local currencies

community banks economy brazil
Banco Palmas is Brazil’s first community bank. Photo: Palmas/Facebook

In 1984, Catholic seminarian Joaquim de Melo Neto decided to relocate to an open landfill in Conjunto Palmeiras, the largest favela in the north-eastern city of Fortaleza. Preparing himself for ordination, he wanted to experience extreme poverty first-hand and help the community thrive. Upon arrival, he saw over 25,000 people living without water, electricity, sewage, or fixed income, sharing the land with countless rats and vultures.

After helping the community to organize itself, Mr. Melo began using his knowledge of European cooperatives to instill a sense of belonging and solidarity among the residents of Conjunto Palmeiras. Under the slogan “No-one...

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