Co-operative Series: A Village Garden Co-operative – Part 2


Notes to broadcasters

Content: The villagers meet to discuss their problems. At first no one is willing to speak, but finally, Kwesi agrees to tell his story. He says that because his soil is poor, he can grow few crops, and his family does not get enough nutritious food. To feed his children Kwesi has to leave his familiy and work for other landowners. The other villagers begin to tell their stories. Many villagers had tried to start small gardens at their homes, but without the proper knowledge of traditional farming methods, they failed. Maria suggests the villagers start a co-operative garden. By sharing their labour and knowledge, they could succeed. The villagers like the idea, and a meeting is set for the following week.

Length: 704 words; 4 minutes, 40 seconds (approx.)
NOTE: This story will be continued in the next package,
Package 23.


The meeting was called to order. Maria asked people to talk about their problems. She explained that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss openly the problems people had in common, and maybe to decide what their biggest difficulty was and ways to deal with it. There was great reluctance to do this. No one wanted to be the first to admit being in trouble. But Kwesi, a farmer and a close friend of Guillermo, volunteered to tell his story.

Kwesi’s story
Kwesi said he worried all the time about feeding his family. His land was poor. The rains often washed away the topsoil. Only the cabbage grew well, but this year insects attacked the young plants and destroyed them. Kwesi was limited in the kind of crops he could grow, and so his family did not have many different foods to eat. Because of this, the children were often sick because they did not have enough nutritious food, and they showed signs that they were suffering from malnutrition. They were listless and their stomachs were distended. Kwesi used the profits from the crops he sold at the market to buy other types of food for his family. If his next crop did not grow well, he would not be able to buy the food for his family.

To get more money, Kwesi worked for big landowners, but that was only seasonal employment, and he earned very little money. The only other thing he could do was leave the village and go to the city, where he hoped to earn enough money to send some home to his family. He never wanted to leave his family, but what other choice did he have? He had to provide for his family.

One by one, the other farmers, women and men, shared their stories of hardship. The stories were similar. There simply was not enough food grown in the village for the children and the people were too poor to purchase it in the village.

Many of the villagers had tried to start their own small garden plots near their houses, but they lacked the seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, and the knowledge to make the gardens productive. The farmers had built up a dependence upon chemical fertilizers and pesticides. These things were just too expensive to apply to a home garden. What the people needed to make a garden successful was knowledge of traditional farming methods that had been lost over the years as modern farming techniques were introduced.

Maria told the villagers that in the neighbouring village there was a co-operative garden. Instead of each family working on its own plot, families shared a plot of land, and they shared tools, and they shared their skills. There was an elder who still followed the old ways, and he taught them to the others. Maria suggested that the group ask this farmer to come to their village and teach them the old ways too. Then they could grow many different kinds of food that they had always either bought in the city or gone without. The garden would cost money, of course. They would need tools and seeds; they would have to pay the farmer who taught them the skills they needed. And, before they went any further, what land would they be able to use for the garden? There were many questions that still needed answers, but there was a buzz of excitement in the gathering that was not there at the start of the meeting. They began to realize that by sharing their time and labour, they could afford to operate the garden with a modest cost to each individual.

Maria volunteered to go to the neighbouring village to talk to the elder farmer, and ask him to come to a meeting the next week to talk to them about starting their own co-operative garden. Guillermo suggested that this next meeting be the first official gathering of the village garden co-operative, and that all those who wanted to become members should attend. There was a round of enthusiastic applause. The villagers went home to their families, feeling a little more positive about their lives than they had just 2 hours before.


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