When the residents of Armstrong, a town of 15,000 in western Argentina, began to meet to discuss a renewable energy project, they agreed that there could be many positive effects and that it was not just a question of doing their bit in the global effort to mitigate climate change.
Nearby is an agroecological garden and a plant nursery, further on there are pens for raising pigs and chickens, and close by, in an old one-story house with a tiled roof, twelve women sew pants and blouses. All of this is happening in a portion of a public park near Buenos Aires, where popular cooperatives are fighting the impact of Argentina's long-drawn-out socioeconomic crisis.
The space consists of just 300 square meters full of green where there is an agro-ecological vegetable garden and nursery, which are the work and dream of 14 women. Behind it can be seen the imposing silhouettes of the high rises that are a symbol of the most modern and sought-after part of Argentina's capital city.
"We started making shampoos and soaps in the kitchen of a friend’s house in 2017. We were five or six girls without jobs, looking for a collective solution, and today we are here," says Letsy Villca, standing between the white walls of the spacious laboratory of Maleza Cosmética Natural, a cooperative that brings together 44 women in their early twenties in the Argentine capital.
"The biggest problem for family farmers has always been to market and sell what they produce, at a fair price," says Natalia Manini, a member of the Union of Landless Rural Workers (UST), a small farmers organisation in Argentina that has been taking steps to forge direct ties with consumers.
Seventy-three-year-old Dorcus Auma effortlessly weaves sisal fronds into a beautiful basket as she walks the tiny path that snakes up a hill. She wound up her farm work early because today, Thursday, she is required to attend her women's group gathering at the secretary’s homestead.
“The people are the only thing that matters,” says agronomist Miguel Ángel Salcines, who then goes on to list a series of other “secondary” factors that have turned Vivero Alamar, an urban farm on the outskirts of the Cuban capital, into a rare success story in the country’s depressed agricultural sector.
Over the past two years, millet production has reached record levels in Dya, a rural community in the Kaolack region of central Senegal, where the Agricultural Value Chains Support Project (PAFA) is supporting two farmers' collectives.
A unique electoral exercise in Penang state, promoting participatory and gender-responsive decision-making at the grassroots level, may serve as a cue for the revival of local elections in Malaysia.
Like many other young Senegalese, Pape Mokhtar Diallo long dreamed of escaping his rural home in northern Senegal for a better life. Three times he tried and failed to go overseas. But the establishment of an agricultural cooperative here in the village of Boyinadji has put another dream within his grasp.
Six months have passed since the beginning of the United Nations International Year of the Cooperatives (IYC). There can be no doubt it has fallen far short of its goal of calling the world's attention to this formidable instrument of social production.