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How EFSI benefits SMEs in Europe - Credito Emiliano case study: Valle dei Cavalieri (Italy), Cooperative

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Nestled in the rolling green hills of the Tuscan Emilian Apennines National Park, the Valle dei Cavalieri (Valley of the Knights) is a beautiful secluded spot. So secluded, however, that 28 years ago the area was threatened by serious depopulation. “When the last bar and shop was closing, the end of our community seemed to be unavoidable. But we didn’t give up, we all rolled up our sleeves and created something unique,” says Dario Torri, President and co-founder of the cooperative. The villagers joined forces to open a bar and a grocery store in a former abandoned school and in January 1991, the Valle dei Cavalieri gave its name to the first community cooperative of its kind, combining agriculture and touristic offerings to sustain the community.

The cooperative’s activities revolve around agriculture and hospitality. Visitors include tourists but also educational institutions from kindergartens to international universities, who can request specific workshops. For example, the cooperative shows students all the processing steps of their DOP pecorino cheese, from milking to seasoning. For others, learning to farm at the cooperative is an option after leaving school.

Today the area’s population goes from 63 in the winter to more than 500 during the tourist season. This revival of the community has even provoked a counter-exodus, with several noted cases of people returning to the valley – and the cooperative had a lot to do with that. “We can really say that Succiso has been reborn thanks to the commitment of its inhabitants,” claims Dario. “There is now a strong sense of community here: of 63 inhabitants, 56 are members of the cooperative. We are all involved in some way and workers are interchangeable and multipurpose, switching between activities. The person driving the bus in the morning could be making pizza in the evening…“

More recently, an EU-guaranteed loan through CREDEM, backed by the EIF under the Investment Plan for Europe has helped the workers through the low season when they need more financial support. “The loan boosted our budget, resolving the cashflow problem we face in the winter months,” explains Dario. Having achieved their goal of saving the local village from desertion, the cooperative members now look forward to growing their business: “Since last year, we’ve added 6 rooms to our touristic offering and we want to continue expanding on an annual basis”

Company: Valle dei Cavalieri 

Type of business: Cooperative

EIF financing: COSME LGF, EFSI

Financial intermediary: Credito Emiliano (CREDEM)

For further information about EIF intermediaries in Italy, please refer to: http://www.eif.org/what_we_do/where/it

 

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