Co-operative Series: A Village Garden Co-operative – Part 1


Notes to broadcasters


Content: The people in a village are faced with another year of hunger because their crops have failed once again. Their crops fail because their soil is poor after years of growing the same crop. One villager, Maria, thinks the villagers should get together to discuss their common problems and ways they can co-operate to help each other. Maria talks to her neighbours, Guillermo and his wife. Guillermo helps Maria set up a meeting of the villagers for the next day.

Note: The following script introduces the story of how a group of villagers got together to form a co-operative garden. Their story begins in this package with this script and script No.10. It will be continued in Package 23 and concluded in Package 24.

Special Note: Starting a co-operative is a serious venture. In this and future s
cripts we aim to get people thinking about ways they can co-operate to improve their lives. The word “co-operative” has different meanings in different countries. In some countries this word refers only to organizations set up or run by governments, or with a great deal of government involvement.
In this series we are talking about a different type of co-operative. The co-operatives we will describe are the kind which spring from the needs of a group of farmers. We are talking about very basic, small-scale co-operation at the village level. In some countries, this would be referred to as a “self-help group” or “pre-co-operative”. Please adapt the term “co-operative” to fit your local situation.
Starting a co-operative is complicated and many co-ops fail. Expert advice is needed at the planning stage to help people avoid the many pitfalls that lie on the road to a successful co-operative. Perhaps someone from a nearby league of co-operatives could be consulted. When presenting this and other scripts about co-operatives, please introduce examples of co-ops in your area, and discuss how they are working.

Length : 687 words; 4 minutes, 30 seconds (approx.)

NOTE: This story is continued in the following item, Item 10.


All of the people in the village were suffering. Once again the harvest was disappointing. It was not the first time the crops had failed, but this season success was especially important. Last year’s harvest was so small that the farmers had to sell nearly all of it. That left less for their families. It would be the same story this year. Less food for the children.

Although everyone was in the same situation, they did not talk about it with their neighbours. They were too proud to let others know that they were going to go hungry another year.

Maria was proud too. But she realized it was foolish pride. Everyone in the village had the same problem. The soil was exhausted after years of growing the same crop. The soil could not hold the rain when it came. The hybrid seeds they used were costly, and would not grow properly without expensive chemical fertilizers. With so many problems, it was a surprise to no one that the crops failed once again. Still, they hoped this year would be better. “But why pretend it did not happen?”, Maria asked herself. “Instead of suffering in silence like this, why don’t we try to help each other?” Her husband agreed with her, but he did not want to be the first farmer in the village to ask for help. Maria knew what she would have to do. She would have to talk to the other farmers about the idea of helping each other out of their poverty. She decided to approach the farmers she knew best about holding a meeting to discuss their problems and possible solutions.

The first people she talked to were Guillermo and his wife. Guillermo was known as the jokester of the village; he usually had a smile for everyone. But not any more. There had been a lot of sickness in his family. He knew why. The children were not getting enough food, sometimes getting by on just one meal a day. Lack of adequate food weakened the children, and when the little ones got diarrhea, it was harder for them to recover and build up their strength. He did not like the idea, but Guillermo knew this year he would have to go to the city to look for work. The separation would be hard on the family. Guillermo would miss the children. His wife would have to manage entirely on her own and no matter how hard he worked, after paying for transportation and housing, there would be little or no money to send home. When Maria came to his family with her idea of bringing the villagers together to talk, he cheered up a little. “As long as there is hope”, he said, “I will not give up”.

Together Maria, Guillermo and his wife talked with other villagers. Some would have nothing to do with the meeting, saying they could look after themselves. But more people liked the idea, and by the end of the day, 20 people said they would come to the meeting the following afternoon. Maria asked each person to spread the word that everyone was welcome to attend the meeting. Then Maria and Guillermo prepared their speeches for the next day’s gathering.

The villagers gathered in a shady place beside the market. News of the meeting had spread quickly, because nearly 50 villagers were waiting to hear what Maria and Guillermo were going to say. Despite the large gathering, a silence hung in the air. The people were very tired; they had worked so hard preparing for the harvest, and they had expected so much this year. The looks on their faces showed their feelings. They felt defeated.

The previous night, Maria and Guillermo had planned what they would say at the meeting. They agreed that the villagers’ problem was this; there simply was not enough food. They discussed various ways they could encourage the villagers to speak about their common problems. They had an idea. But they wanted to hear from the other villagers, to make sure everyone shared the same ideas. It was time for the meeting to begin.


NOTE: This story is continued in the following item, Item 10.

INFORMATION SOURCE : Mary Lou Morgan, a consultant for the Canadian Co-operative Association and SUMAC Consulting, a co-operative development group.