Great Things Start With Small Beginnings

The Birth Of An Advocacy

The Nabunturan Integrated Cooperative (NICO) is a cooperative that prides itself on having loyal and honest members, and on being a trailblazer for certain initiatives. Its mission is to offer products and provide services that build a solid foundation for the economic prosperity of its stakeholders. NICO is located in Poblacion, Nabunturan, Compostela Valley Province, and is actually a merger of two separate cooperatives, the Nabunturan Credit Cooperative, Inc. and the Nabunturan Consumers Cooperative, Inc. The former was started in 1965 by a Maryknoll parish priest, Reverend Friar John Lennon, to help farmers acquire capital, especially after a chronic rat infestation devastated the farming community in the area from 1963 to 1965. This new cooperative was registered on August 31, 1967, backed by 25 stakeholders who had pooled together P2,000.00 of capital. That same year, on February 23, the Nabunturan Consumers Cooperative was formed to address the need of farmers for basic commodities as they waited for harvesting season. NICO was also seen as a good way to stabilize prices of commodities in the area.

In 1982, the two cooperatives decided to merge since both catered to the same area and had recruited some of the same members. The Small Business Assistance Center (SBAC) played a key role in ironing out the details of the merger, while the Bureau of Cooperative Development paid close attention, seeing as the merger was one of the first attempts at the time among Mindanao cooperatives. On April 29, 1983, the Nabunturan Integrated Cooperative, Inc. (NICI) was registered. This turned into the Nabunturan Integrated Cooperative on September 3, 1992, after confirmation by the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA), and after some amendments in the Constitution and Bylaws.

On Being The Innovator And Catalyst of Change

Through the decades, NICO has proven itself time and time again a reliable and forward-thinking cooperative, and, as a result, been recognized at the local, regional, and national level. In 2000, it was recognized as a credible savings and credit cooperative, in which members pool their wealth and give out loans to each other at reasonable rates of interest. In addition, NICO has been a trailblazer in terms of setting up safeguards, including the international monitoring tool P.E.A.R.L.S System, that outline contingencies in case of loan losses, and which also encourage repayment of loans, and savings mobilization that strengthen general reserves.

As a Finance Organization, NICO achieved the Certified Credit Union Standards (FOCCUS). Now, more than 50 years since NICO’s first iteration, the cooperative remains determined to provide the best products and services to its members. These include savings and credit that cover housing loans, general merchandising, trading in agri-products such as copra and rice, renting out function and office spaces, and access to the Coop Assurance Center. From 25 stakeholders with a capital pool of P2,000.00 in 1965, NICO now has more than 17,000 members whose combined capital equals P1.3 billion. Including associates, membership easily reaches 30,000. Recently, three branches were opened in Maragusan, Tagum, and Compostela, indicating trust in NICO’s ideals and practices.

The Crowning Glory

NICO’s achievements is evidently seen through their new four-storey office building named The NICO Main Office, and hailed as the first building in Nabunuran to have an elevator. NICO Chairperson Sofronio V. Talisic proudly shared that the building was funded solely by the cooperative’s savings. In some cases, the selling price at which NICO dictates, such as for coconuts, becomes the standard in neighboring areas. “We want to be the catalyst of change in the community”, said NICO Chairperson Talisic. This has been the direction NICO wanted to take, and now they are already on it.

The Key To Success

The enduring success and influence that NICO continues to enjoy is largely a result of its emphasis on internal development. NICO’s leaders invest heavily in education, which includes training for members and staff about the ideals and best practices espoused by the cooperative. Success, they emphasize, must start from within, and must be complimented with open-mindedness and quality leadership that are crucial during periods of transition. When asked about how the cooperative sustains its success, he pointed out that “Leadership is the key to success.” Perhaps, what sets NICO apart is how well its leaders and members have adapted through the years. “Change” is definitely not something that NICO have shielded away from, but rather something they have welcomed and used to become smarter, more efficient, and more resilient.