The Jinotega region of northern Nicaragua is a broad valley surrounded by cloud-capped mountains. The geography and climate make it an ideal setting for growing coffee. But until a few years ago, the region was missing the main ingredient for establishing trade: cash.

“It was as if we didn’t exist,” says Fátima Ismael, general manager of Soppexcca, a coffee cooperative. Too remote and too poor to attract traditional banks, the people of Jinotega were cut off from the capital they needed to buy...

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