"When I stopped working for others, it was a great change in my life," said Carlos Deolino, age 37, a resident of the community of Vale do Riachão, in Igrapiúna, Bahia. A member of the Bahia Southern Lowlands Heart of Palm Producers’ Cooperative (COOPALM) for five years, he shares his life story, an example of courage and perseverance.
At age 18, unsatisfied with his work as a logger, he moved from Bahia to São Paulo. In the new city, Deolino experienced many hardships. After six years, the farmer returned to his native city and began planting heart of palm. However, without technical support, the profit on the production was taken by the middlemen, who sold the products.
In 2006, his life began to change when he became a cooperative member. "I began receiving quality monitoring from the technicians and had all the necessary support," recalled Deolino. Currently, Deolino has two hectares of heart of palm and is a member of the cooperative’s Board of Directors. "I see COOPALM as one big family," he said.
Cooperativism and Family Farming
Deolino’s story shows that family farming is an activity that recognizes small producers as rural entrepreneurs and that cooperativism represents a social organization that is focused on collective collaboration, aiming toward a common good. Through the cooperative, members have access to technologies that help them boost the quantity and quality of their production.
To disseminate the concepts and celebrate International Cooperativism Day – celebrated on the second Saturday of July – the Bahia Southern Lowlands Environmental Protection Area Mosaic Integrated and Sustainable Development Program (PDIS), sponsored by the Odebrecht Foundation, held activities involving the participation of communities from Bahia’s Southern Lowlands.
As part of the programming, a special edition on the COOPALM program was broadcasted on the radio station Litoral FM, in Ituberá, featuring statements from the cooperative members. "It is possible to overcome daily challenges when we are part of a cooperative," revealed Jânio Silva Santos, from the community of Vale do Riachão. "Cooperating means joining forces, people and the will to grow," said Creuza Amorim, Executive Director of the Pratigi Environmental Protection Rural Area Producers' Cooperative (COOPRAP).
COOPALM, the Continental Water Aquaculturists' Cooperative (COOPECON) and COOPRAP developed actions in different communities and settlements. There
was the mobilization of residents from Mata do Sossego and Lago Antonio Rocha in Igrapiúna, Josinei Hipólito, Lucas Dantas and Margarida Alves, in Ituberá, Serra do Sal and in Taperoá, among others. There were also lectures and recreational activities, such as group dynamics and theater, in order to debate and provide clarifications on the importance of family farming.
International Cooperative Day was part of a calendar of events promoted by PDIS that involves a series of activities to draw communities closer together. Themes such as education, environmental conservation, work and youth leadership were also some of the themes of events already held this year.