Business Overview

The community bank of Ipetí Emberá was founded in 2014 and is one of the oldest cajas established as a way to provide financial access to credit and savings. The community recently hosted the Guiness World Record event for the largest Patacón which provided them a platform to dicuss Indigenous Peoples Rights.

Community Bank Ipetí Emberá - Ipetí Emberá, Panamá

Economic Challenge

The Caja Rural of Ipetí Emberá was created over 5 years ago, and up to 2019, it is the only financial institution based in the community. This Caja Rural provides access to affordable financial services (credit and savings) to community members, allowing them to invest in their micro-enterprises to generate and increase income, improve their household infrastructure and/or resolve economic/health emergencies. Therefore, the Caja Rural plays a major role in the community and its performance is closely linked to the overall community development. Given this case, agriculture, construction and tourism play an important role in generating employment and income in Ipetí. The uncertainty in the region due to the lack of investment in their community remains a major challenge that also affects the community bank performance, but it is also an opportunity to strategize and find alternative approaches for the community development of Ipetí Emberá.

The Business

In October 2019, the community of Ipetí Emberá was host of the creation of “The Largest Patacón (fried plantain) of the World”. Ipetí Emberá celebrated this iconic record for indigenous people in Panama performing traditional dances and showcasing their incredible culture all over the community. This event, as the Chief General of the Alto Bayano Communities Rodolfo Cunampio stated, was an excuse to have their voices heard and create a larger platform which would force the government to listen to their demands: inclusion, representation, and political participation on development matters that directly affect their worldviews and livelihoods. 

Competitive Advantage

The Caja Rural of Ipetí Emberá is one of the oldest among the 24 cajas, their group remains united and they are currently planning the construction of their physical office, as they currently meet at the health center of the community.


One of the major challenges that Ipetí Emberá is currently facing is the stagnant membership and the challenge of finding new leaders within the community bank. There is a need to train and prepare community bank members to take on leadership positions.

Next Steps

The tasks thatCommunity Bank Ipetí Emberá has prioritized are:

1: Conduct an income statement and present it to all community bank shareholders
2: Gather 2019 community bank savings data (by individual for 2019) - conduct savings trends analysis.
3: Conduct a leadership workshop with all community bank members.

Page Last Updated:December 12, 2019