The 7th Asean Co­op­er­a­tive Busi­ness Fo­rum

Sun.Star Baguio - - OPINION -

WAseanITH a crit­i­cal mass of some 500,000 agri­cul­tural co­op­er­a­tives from the 10 coun­tries – yes, about 500,000 is the to­tal num­ber of the co­op­er­a­tives of farm­ers, fish­er­folk, women and of the indige­nous peo­ple based on the fig­ures given by the del­e­gates rep­re­sent­ing their re­spec­tive coun­tries when we met in Bangkok, Thai­land in 2012 dur­ing the meet­ing of the Asean Cen­ter for the Devel­op­ment of Agri­cul­tural Co­op­er­a­tives (Acedac).

The del­e­gates to the 7th Asian Co­op­er­a­tives Busi­ness Fo­rum have come to­gether Jan­uary 16 to 18 for a 3-day con­ver­gence in Manila to bring to the fore the voice, the is­sues and con­cerns, the busi­ness plan and the ad­vo­ca­cies of their hun­dreds of mil­lions of mem­bers in the spirit of co­op­er­a­tion and one­ness. The theme, “Co­op­er­a­tives, be­ing mem­bers-owned, value-based and sus­tain­able, are ad­vanc­ing pros­per­ity for all,” has put in clear cat­e­gor­i­cal term the very essence of co­op­er­a­tivism and why we have to pro­pel co­op­er­a­tive busi­ness to greater heights.

Be­ing mem­bers-owned, the prob­lem of gross in­equities will be ad­dressed as the mem­bers are the main stake­hold­ers as they own and man­age their own en­ter­prise.

They are the ones to con­trol, to de­cide and to ben­e­fit, thus, de­moc­ra­tiz­ing wealth and power. Be­ing value-based, the co­op­er­a­tives give high ad­her­ence to time-hon­ored and uni­ver­sally-ac­cepted co­op­er­a­tive

“But there is more!” the other client was im­me­di­ately con­verted. “There is no Straw­berry Cap­i­tal with­out Straw­ber­ries.” One must won­der. The “Pride of Place” con­cept is tourism’s noneco­nomic ben­e­fit un­der the thrust of “so­cio-eco­nomic devel­op­ment”. “It will be sad to have noth­ing to be proud of in our town”.

Peo­ple tend to for­get what our lives would be bloomed was won­der­fully cit­rusy. Since then, I added more lemons to grow hop­ing that I would some­day be har­vest­ing enough fruits that the fam­ily needs daily, even with a very lim­ited space.

Ur­ban sprawl has eaten so much of the na­tion’s farms. The ur­ban­iza­tion that took shape along EDSA and Marik­ina, in Metro Manila; and prin­ci­ples val­ues and prac­tices of par­tic­i­pa­tion, democ­racy, equal­ity, ser­vice, in­dus­try, co­op­er­a­tion, hon­esty, trans­parency, ac­count­abil­ity and most im­por­tantly, con­cern for the en­vi­ron­ment and for the com­mu­ni­ties. Money is used to en- hance life and the well-be­ing of the peo­ple and not to make more money.

The co­op­er­a­tives are con­sid­ered the builders of sus­tain­abil­ity and by 2020, they will be the ac­knowl­edged lead­ers in so­cial, eco­nomic and eco­log­i­cal sus­tain­abil­ity.

This means that food se­cu­rity, in­clu­sive growth and eco­log­i­cal in­tegrity will be the pri­or­i­ties rather than busi­ness and profit – which is what pros­per­ity for all is all about! It is just amaz­ing that the fo­rum will be­gin with the first salvo by openingup Ex­hibits and Asian Cof­fee Cor­ner show­cas­ing the prod­ucts of the co­op­er­a­tives from dif­fer­ent Asean coun­tries which can be the sub­ject of in­tra­trad­ing be­tween and among the Asean coun­tries.

The Ex­hibits car­ries with it a strong mes­sage that buy­ing is like cast­ing a vote, choos­ing from dif­fer­ent eco­nomic al­ter­na­tives, co­op­er­a­tives ver­sus non-co­op­er­a­tives; es­sen­tials ver­sus non-es­sen­tials, or­ganic ver­sus non-or­ganic. When you buy the prod­ucts of the co­op­er­a­tives, you are buy­ing what are es­sen­tials, what are healthy and or­ganic with­out these economies which were ad­mit­tedly built by the real tourism front­lin­ers in the last decades. Prob­lem is; the front­lin­ers some­times for­get to be grate­ful, putting money on top, and be­ing a part of the com­mu­nity at the bot­tom. They for­get to re­mind the tourists to dis­pose their wastes prop­erly, or to at least sup­port La Trinidad’s brand cam­paign at least by the com­mis­sion­ing of shirts and key­chains to pro­mote the name “La Trinidad”. “Basta makalako ma­ba­li­nen!” they would in­sist. It is dif­fi­cult to change mind­sets that closer to home, La Trinidad, Benguet; Bon­toc, Moun­tain Province; and Tabuk City, Kalinga that were once open field farms all hap­pened dur­ing my life­time. These places have all be­come highly ur­ban­ized. Even in many parts of Cen­tral Lu­zon, the dis­ap­pear­ance of agri­cul­tural lands in fa­vor of hous­ing and other in­dus­trial uses was rather too fast.

So there goes an­other rea­son why I do ur­ban gar­den­ing while, at the same time, I try to lose and at the same time sup­port the liveli­hood of the poor and the vul­ner­a­ble to cre­ate em­ploy­ment and draw those in the mar­gins into the main­stream of devel­op­ment pro­cesses.

It is just amaz­ing that in the ex­hibits of prod­ucts, we are pleased to show a prod­uct on cof­fee that has been ad­judged in Seat­tle USA last year as the best cof­fee in the world pro­duced by a co­op­er­a­tive of the Indige­nous Peo­ple in Dal­wan­gan and Mara­mag, Bukid­non.

There is no doubt, this In­ter­na­tional Fo­rum will not only be a learn­ing venue with each coun­try pre­sent­ing the amaz­ing sto­ries of the agri­cul­tural co­op­er­a­tives but will also in­clude a re­gional shar­ing of in­for­ma­tion high­light­ing in­no­va­tions of the co­op­er­a­tives in fac­ing the chal­lenges brought about by a glob­al­ized set-up. There will also be field tours to suc­cess­ful nearby co­op­er­a­tives whose in­no­va­tions and out­stand­ing per­for­mance have be­come models in the global econ­omy.

In this fo­rum, we will see the build­ing and launch­ing of part­ner­ship among co­op­er­a­tives in­clud­ing the sign­ing of me­moran­dum of agree­ments. All told, the Fo­rum is ad­vanc­ing what the In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tive Al­liance (ICA) has de­clared, that co­op­er­a­tives are the peo­ple’s pre­ferred devel­op­ment model and the fastest grow­ing en­ter­prise that will re­place the present dom­i­nant par­a­digm. The par­a­digm shift from neo-lib­eral cap­i­tal­ism to co­op­er­a­tivism is al­ready long over­due. SSCa­gayan have been ce­mented by years of prac­tice. Dis­turb­ing the sta­tus quo will in­sti­gate dis­like, even de­fi­ance. The ques­tion I ask peo­ple is “Do you love your home­town?” Or in mo­ments of ine­bri­a­tion and del­uge : “Isakit tau met koma ti ili tau.”

What should be sus­tained is not the word “sus­tain”, but be­ing the straw­berry town in our coun­try. Lest La Trinidad wants to pass the “Straw­berry Cap­i­tal” ti­tle. For me, if there is such a thing as “Straw­berry Fields For­ever”, I would want it to be in La Trinidad. my fev­er­ish and di­a­betic nerve and mus­cle pains too with the work. But more im­por­tant, it is my hope to be able to con­trib­ute to the grow­ing stock of knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ences on ur­ban gar­den­ing that the fu­ture gen­er­a­tions may use to pro­duce their food. Hey, I heard that some Ja­panese in­dus­tri­al­ists built some sky­scrapers whose rooftops are now uti­lized for the pro­duc­tion of rice. The first ex­per­i­ment in­di­cated there are less if non-ex­is­tent pest up there. -30the

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