Lessons in Co-operation from Around The World

By Sally Reith

If they say you learn something new every day, then this looks set to be a year of 365 revelations for me.  One of the areas in which I am growing my knowledge base is co-operatives.  So in the manner of co-operation, I've condensed a couple of these facts for you to enjoy and share.

The first co-operative I want to tell you about relates to one of my favourite foods - Brazil Nuts.  Who else remembers struggling to crack these oddly shaped wonders at Christmas?

With the naivety of youth, it was easy to think these treats grew in a red net bag with an assortment of other nuts.  However, a few years down the line, I am fascinated by the truth of their journey into the world.

Brazil -nut -inlineBefore they get to me in their individual shell they have to be removed from a much larger one, known as a pod.  Here, up to twenty Brazil Nuts can be found.

This of course got me wondering how these nuts actually end up in my cupboard. 

Shared Interest customer, Candela is a co-operative based in Peru that harvests and produces a variety of Brazil Nut products, including candles made using the pod as a shell which is then filled with wax. 

Harvesters (called Castaneros) collect Brazil Nuts from the few forests where they can be found.  The nuts grow on trees that can be around 200 years old and grow up to 30 metres tall! 

Now I can understand that why these nuts deserve a bit of effort from us in having to get past that husky shell to the tasty treat housed within.

To find out more about Brazil Nuts and Candela click here.

Now, from Brazil Nuts to bees; by their nature many species of bee are a co-operative in themselves with every creature knowing its role within the bee community and working together to achieve their aims. 

Chilean co-operative Apicoop looked to bee-keeping following the political struggles of the country, which had left communities divided.  By harvesting their Fairtrade honey they are able to build relationships and work together to build a better future. 

Their story of co-operation does not end there however.  To diversify their production, and to enable new members to join their co-operative, Apicoop began producing blueberries (which coincidentally can be found in Co-operative stores).   With the support of Shared Interest, an ethical investment co-operative and the world's only 100% fair trade lender, Apicoop has been able to develop both their honey and blueberry production, which go hand in hand with the bees pollinating the blueberry plants!  Now there's a cycle of co-operation!

To find out more about co-operatives from around the world why not check out Shared Interest's interactive map and click on different areas to read their stories.