Celebrating International Cooperatives Day: Coops play a central role in revitalizing the economy as we make our way past this pandemic.
At SOCODEVI, this has been our guiding mantra for three decades — and has inspired our endeavors that have had an impact on more than 500,000 people in the last year alone. We contribute to improving the living conditions of communities by helping to create and strengthen sustainable and inclusive cooperative and mutual enterprises.
In some parts of the world affected by the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, the more affluent have had a small taste of the blight of low empowerment, i.e., the daily experience of the world’s most isolated, marginalized, discriminated against, and poorest populations. Simply put, the better off have experienced what some experience throughout their entire lives.
Our team is more than ever convinced that we need to think cooperatively to sustainably improve the living conditions of women, families, and future generations. And we could tackle hunger and poverty even more with increased investments in agriculture.
“No economy has been spared by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that’s in a context where food insecurity was already rising since 2015”, according to Virginie Levasseur, SOCODEVI’s Strategy, Policy and Cooperative Development Director. “When it comes to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, investments in agriculture are the ones that have the greatest impact on a country’s economic development, in addition to helping reduce hunger. As such, cooperatives are key economic drivers for an inclusive and sustainable recovery.”
SOCODEVI’s priorities have remained clear since the start of the pandemic: continue to support co-op organizations and member families as well as ensure the health and safety of the people we work with in more than fifteen countries. For that, we swiftly adapted.
Evolving Involving Local Partners and Stakeholders
Since March 2020, we actively focused on developing dynamic and synergetic partnerships with civil society organizations, governments, and private business to better support the poorest communities.
Gender-based violence (GBV) prevention became a priority since it increased due to confinement measures and related economic stress. For example, partnerships with local police departments and local organizations were established to prevent and denounce GBV in Upper-East Ghana and protect the victims.
Among some other initiatives with local organizations, women co-operators in Cote d’Ivoire received sewing training to craft and commercialize handmade feminine hygiene products. This helps to counteract the price rise of these essentials and ensure women’s economic inclusion.
In Bolivia, a municipal contingency plan was swiftly put in place in collaboration with municipalities and their emergency committees. The initiative sought to ensure access to decent health care for more than 5,000 families and to limit their geographic, social, and economic exclusion.
In terms of communication only, the plan focuses on raising awareness and spreading information to strengthen bonds of trust between the authorities and the population.
Improved Support for an Adapted Response
In Latin America and Africa, SOCODEVI worked with coops and farmers’ associations to facilitate the creation of family and community gardens, especially in isolated regions, to prevent food shortages and transportation perturbations. Training and new facilities to produce agricultural (organic) inputs were also offered.
In Colombia, some staff members even moved to the participating communities to remain connected amidst the pandemic constraints. We have also relied on broadcasting certain content from SOCODEVI Field Schools (which involve frequent gatherings of participating families) through community radio stations. Every day, inhabitants could also tune in to a radio program, and get gender equality, environmental, financial, gardening and leadership training as well as health and hygiene information.
Members and employees from SOCODEVI’S network institutions (Quebec co-ops and mutuals) multiplied their in-kind support through innovative online experience sharing and capacity building.
Co-ops for an inclusive and sustainable recovery
Many of these initiatives put in place with the people and partners are there to stay: as if the pandemic pushed us to be even more creative and to catalyze cooperative innovations.
We believe donors and NGOs must continue to work together to curb the socio-economic impacts of this crisis, and to develop healthy living environments for everyone in the long term. More than ever, let’s think co-op!