The Islamic Post Blog

Food Cooperatives: A Means to Combat Escalating Prices by Khalida
July 25, 2008, 7:33 pm
Filed under: July Volume II - 2008, Latino/Caribe

By Safiya A. Khafidh, Islamic Post Staff Writer

There is a traditional saying:
“A word to the wise is sufficient.”

Food co-ops are not a new idea, and are examples of the good people can do when they work together. Revisiting the efficiency and practicality of sharing food and resources in these difficult days is worth a bit of reflection.
Two years ago, when consumer goods rose 26 percent, a group of ladies in the poor neighborhood of Asuncion, Paraguay created a practical and sensible option to the traditional way of shopping: the simple food co-op. Today, with basic commodities having risen 40 percent in their country, the fees co-op members pay “no longer stretch far enough,” says Ramona Perez, president of Mujeres Unidas (Women United), a cooperative of over fifty ladies.
The way it works is that each person pays a monthly fee of about 110,000 guaranis, which is about 25 U.S. dollars. Once a month food is purchased in bulk and then it is equally distributed amongst all the ladies. They cannot afford to buy beef or dairy products, and restrict themselves to the basics like sugar, flour, rice, cooking oil, eggs, and beans.  Ramona explained that “the prices are sky high. The only way to ease the impact on our pocketbooks is buying in bulk. That’s the only way we can survive.” The ladies are also planning to bake their own breads and baked goods, as well as buying their fruits and vegetables directly from the growers.
Operating on a larger scale, though similar in principle, is another kind of food co-op; the 803 hectares farm co-op of Brisas del Masparro in Barinas, Venezuela. They are comprised of 56 families.
Cows are milked twice a day, and the co-op donates 20 liters of milk every day to 2 small neighboring schools. Expenses are shared. They plan to build homes this year for the 56 families. According to one member, “We will build them together in the style of a little town in order to facilitate and reduce costs of services like water, electricity and gas, with a sports field, a town square and a community centre and perhaps even a pool.”
“All around the world there is a food crisis. They want to take food and make it into fuel. We don’t agree with that and we pay back the government’s support by producing more food,” said José Tapia Coiran, president of the Brisas del Masparro co-operative.


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