Social Enterprise Code Signed by Philippines Cooperative

In April, 2017 the Mayor and municipal council members of Oroquieta, a coastal city of some 80,000 people on the southern island of Mindanao in the Philippines, were introduced to Prout. This catalyzed a better understanding of the potential to develop a more vibrant and resilient local economy. A new initiative grew, a partnership aimed at fostering greater self-reliance; and the creation of a practical model that implements several key economic policies of Prout. The vision included an increase in local organic food production and markets, small scale industries, employment, and the formation of cooperative enterprises to ensure greater participation, and local control. And to do so in a way that protects and preserves the natural environment.

In the first phase more than 200 backyard organic gardens started. This helped families to eat a more balanced and healthy diet as well as provide additional income through market sales. Now more than 900 such gardens are running. And a large building was constructed in which an organic market operates, 7 days a week, just next to the city’s main market.

Priorities include to keep money rolling within the community and to make better use of local resources. The area has more than eight thousand hectares of coconut plantation. Traditionally the harvest has been used almost exclusively for oil production. Prout activists liaised with coconut processing experts in Manila. A training program soon inspired everyone with the possibility of producing more than a dozen products, each with viable market potential. A buzz was created that led participants to declare, “this will revolutionize our economy”.

To ensure local and cooperative ownership and control, as well as economic equity, a Social Enterprise Code was drafted. Further assistance and support to realize the vision was tied to agreement to and signing of the Code.

In the first week of December a meeting was held with members of the community ready to form cooperatives, representatives of the municipal government and Prout activists. The mayor, his colleagues and more than 40 aspiring member/owners signed the Code (see text in photo).

Already 10 or so products have been identified and samples produced. Several are being packaged and marketed. One of the new products, “Coconot Soy” (substitute for soy sauce) was awarded first prize by the Department of Agriculture and Mindanao Regional Development agencies in a state-wide best products competition.

Oroquieta’s Mayor committed the local government to purchase US$10,000 worth of products within the coming months and ensured other large orders would be placed for Christmas season parties. In response the production of coconut products has shifted into high gear. The coop teams now need to quickly develop while they simultaneously scale up their productive capacity and systems. This translates into more employment and participation by many currently unemployed members of the community.

Further developments in Oroquieta and elsewhere in Maharlika (the original name of the Philippines) will soon be shared in future issues.

Social Enterprise Code Signed by Philippines Cooperative
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PROUT Research Institute Venezuela in Alliance for local self-reliance

The crisis in Venezuela is continuing. There are a few improvements in some areas. We can get cash money again, which solves some problems. There are more staple foods such as rice and oil in the stores. But in general, things are still quite difficult. Many big supermarkets are half empty. Food (and everything else) is limited and very expensive; many medicines are not available. Many stores, small businesses, private schools, etc. have closed or are barely making it. There is tremendous desertion of children from the schools. Crime and corruption continue to be a problem. Those who depend on public transportation face much difficulty. And many areas in Caracas as well as in other parts of the country are having serious water shortages.

A crisis has a cause and provides new opportunities for growth. An overall weakness in the Venezuela society is “dependency versus self-sufficiency”. The national economy is highly dependent on oil, many Venezuelans depend on the government as their provider, and many young adults live at home having their parents provide for them. Self-sufficiency was always an important issue for the Prout Research Institute (PRI) in Caracas. We now assist our close friends at the farm Centro Madre in Barlovento who are applying almost 20 years of experience in farming and community work to different projects that continue to stimulate self-sufficiency.

Alliance

Together with Centro Madre we have made an alliance with the “Foundation Territorio K-Ribe” and the “Consumers’ Cooperative Zamorano”, both located in Guatire, a city half an hour east of Caracas.

The purpose of the foundation is organic agriculture and community service. They started in 2007 with 10 hectares of land and were successfully cultivating different crops, constructing areas for workshops on making soap, carpentry, etc. But the foundation was affected by the many problems the country is going through, and by the time we started to visit them in March this year, it had almost collapsed. We made a plan to help them recover by doing one or two concrete and successful projects with them: planting 4000 tomatoes and bell pepper seedlings, as well as a variety of other crops that can be sold directly to the community.

The consumers’ cooperative was founded in 2013 with the goal to buy cheap bulkfood for their members. But due to the food crisis they have not been successful. Thanks to our alliance, the members of the food co-op go to the foundation Territorio K-Ribe to help clean the land and plant. They grow corn on the land of the Foundation for their members. The members of the Foundation become members of the Consumers’ Cooperative. This way we are all benefitting.

Making corn flour

Making corn flour

Dada Atmapranananda from the PRI had a grinding machine made which can be used for making flour of different crops such as corn. This provides all of us with corn flour, a major ingredient for the Venezuelan breakfast: Hence, “local production for the local community”.

During our regular visits we provide a soup for all the members and volunteers working there that day. Sharing a meal and having regular meetings creates a bond between the members of the different groups.

The situation at the Foundation has improved much and many give credit to Centro Madre and PRI, saying it is due to our presence.

PRI, the Foundation, and the Cooperative together visited a poor community called Tapayma of 100 families, where people live in shacks. They want to learn how to make their own blocks for construction so they can build a community center, and they want to learn how to grow their own food. The people of the village, together with Dada, looked for suitable soil right in their own community, which they found. Another day, members of that community visited the Foundation to learn how to make compost.

Visiting Tapayma

Visiting Tapayma

PROUT Research Institute Venezuela in Alliance for local self-reliance
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Economic Democracy conference in Maine, USA

A landmark conference on Economic Democracy took place at the University of Maine in Augusta on November 10, 2018. Two Proutists, Alex Jackimovicz and Ashrita Shri Verrill formed the Alliance for Economic Democracy (www.aedmaine.org) two years ago that organized this event with 27 co-sponsors. The theme was “Our Community, Our Economy: Economic Democracy for Maine.”  Seventy people participated in the all-day program with keynote talks and workshops about cooperatives, the biopsychology of cooperation, healthcare, decentralized energy, food sovereignty, financing economic democracy, indigenous rights, fair trade, cooperative housing and land care, ecology-based economy and timebanking.

Transcript of the keynote address by Alex Jackimovicz

 

The Paradigm of Economic Democracy

Thank you all for coming today, it’s a privilege and honor to speak to you. I want to acknowledge who I see in the room today: Practitioners of the new economy, representatives of people’s movements—healthcare, food sovereignty, decentralized energy generation, cooperatives; all of you deeply committed to community values, and to a more just and sustainable world. Some of you serve at the intersection of social and economic justice activism and the new economy. You all, and your work inspire me very much. We’re all here to share collectively, to discuss what Economic Democracy is, and how we can apply it.
Let me say a few things about myself. I live and work in Boothbay; I’m an electrician. My passion is for meditation, yoga, and working toward a better world. Over the last six or seven years, I’ve focused on activism— primarily social and economic justice campaigns, and challenging free trade agreements.
Two years ago my partner Shri Verrill and I founded the Alliance for Economic Democracy, and my activism shifted to embrace the strategic goal of implementing systemic change in order to foster a better world for all people, for all beings.
This view of economic democracy is based on a reimagining of society as if everybody is connected. We are not in isolation from nature, or from each other. Instead, we are in intimate relationship with those beings we can see and those that we cannot, and with the natural world of which we are a part. The heart of the work for organizing around economic democracy is in strengthening our social and economic fabric, our bonds with each other. We seek greater connections between all peoples, to reduce the divisions, apathy, tension, conflict, and misunderstanding. In this view, our economy is an extension of our community, of our community values. The economy must be in alignment with our highest versions of those values. The move to center the needs, interests, and desires of local people, is based on the sense of universal family. We all have rights and needs, and it is neither acceptable nor tolerable that some accumulate so much wealth that others are deprived of their basic needs.
Economic democracy is a framework where communities and regions base decisions and policies upon collective needs, rather than maximizing private profit. The great crises of our times, such as looming environmental collapse, and vast extinction of species, cannot be surmounted by individual efforts alone. A shift of consciousness must happen for us to collectively move toward the ideals of a democratic economy. We must consider our relationship with others and ask ourselves: Where does our food come from? How are the animals treated? What are the effects on the soils and waters? Are the practices of farming and agriculture part of the problem, causing environmental degradation, destruction, and mass pollution? How can they be aligned with the renewable, regenerative economy? What types of products do we purchase? Are they part of the disposable, mass-waste producing, centralized economy? What are the working conditions and how fairly are the workers paid? What is the environmental impact of the distance supplies must travel to get to us? We need to take a real, honest look at the nature of global capitalism and how it produces such incredible environmental devastation. To overcome that we need to establish and strengthen regional economies to be more self-reliant and re-localized so that they no longer depend on food and supplies shipped from thousands of miles away. Most of our retail goods come from what must be called a slave-labor sweatshop economy of Asia. Within the borders of the United States, we have outlawed the worst of such harsh, exploitative conditions—which merely exported the problem elsewhere—out of sight, and out of mind. We are taught to think it is rational and prudent to invest our money and retirement funds in the stock market with little thought of the impact that it has on community economies.

However, there are consequences for our ignorance.

The modern industrial economy is dominated by large transnational corporations and extremely high net worth individuals unconcerned with public health or the public good. Those entities focus exclusively on maximizing profits and wealth accumulation rather than paying good wages, strengthening local communities and economies, and thereby supporting strong and dynamic political processes. We should be looking at what is the effect of our actions on an entire eco-system of human economic, socio-political relationships. When we are developing our economies, it shouldn’t, and it doesn’t need to come at the expense of another’s opportunity to live and thrive. Neither should we be causing needless harm to the environment. This reimagining is a movement toward economic democracy It is the transformation of economic and political institutions as if people and the planet mattered, for the welfare of all. With a focus on real human needs, and bringing the power of decision-making back into the people’s hands. Economic Democracy is rooted in the notion that for the benefit of all people, and the planet, the economy must be democratized. What does it mean to bring the ideas of democracy to the economy? In essence, the word democracy means the rule of the demos—the rule of the people. What does an economy look like when it is of the people, by the people, for the people—without anyone left behind? A democracy is where the people collectively have real sovereignty, and the important decisions in society reflect their desires. I would argue that this is only possible with a system that guarantees a democratic economy. That is a system of economic democracy. That is what our convergence, this conference is about.

At the heart of it, there are four requirements or pillars essential to establishing economic democracy.

  • The first is that all people have an economic and human right to have opportunities to live a dignified life. Necessities— food and water, shelter, healthcare, education, and clothing) must be guaranteed to all.
  • The second pillar is to improve the standard of living and quality of life for everyone so that everyone has the means to meet their basic needs.
  •  The third pillar is that economic power must be in the hands of local people.For example, it should be the local people who determine the best use of local resources.
  • Lastly, the fourth is using local resources to meet local needs and limiting the wealth leaving local economies.

These ideas represent a new paradigm of how the economy functions. Whatever economic production, labor, and markets can be local, should be local. These requirements or pillars of economic democracy demonstrate a new set of values, and they show us what we already know. Environmental destruction and poverty are completely unnecessary— We live in the most wealthy nation in the history of nations and we have so many who are struggling to just survive. Nearly half the nation has less than $400 in the bank! It doesn’t have to be like this, it shouldn’t be like this. There is a better way.
It is no surprise that the communities most economically, and socially oppressed are also the most disenfranchised. They are the people of color, indigenous people, minority and vulnerable populations, people at the margins of society who often have no voice in the decisions affecting their lives. Half of those who earn the minimum wage in Maine are people of color—and they make up less than 5 percent of the population of Maine. There are none for whom it is more important to have economic democracy than the most socially and economically impacted.
It feels to me like so much of this work is still in developing our community relations, our bonds, in being responsible for each other, in raising our voices, doing important work of self-reflection and understanding the needs and voices of others. Being quiet enough to listen and be in true solidarity with those voices. These are some of the necessary ingredients for us to come together. Maybe then we can move together and live up to the ideal that:
Economic Democracy is the radical and audacious idea that all the local stakeholders have a say in shaping “their” economy.It is the people who are most impacted who are must be empowered to make the critical decisions in their lives, especially the economic decisions. This is our community. This is our economy. We, the people, have some work to do to come together and establish justice and fairness with each other.

So what can this look like?

The democratic economy includes transition towns; regional food systems, sustainable and regenerative organic agriculture; community and municipally-owned and run decentralized renewable power generation; community development and investment institutions; the cooperative economy—including worker and consumer-owned cooperative enterprises; solidarity and local living economies; local credit unions, public banks; pro-worker, pro-wage, pro-family policies and campaigns; institutions which prioritize community and environment over profit.

Thank you for coming. It has been a great pleasure to speak before you.

Economic Democracy conference in Maine, USA
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Economic Democracy Seminar Held in New Delhi

A lively seminar on the theme of Economic Democracy was organized by Proutist Forum on 7th October at the Nehru Yuva Kendra in New Delhi. 130 participants attended the presentations and discussions which lasted more than four hours. 
As a result of the program requests came to arrange similar programs and presentations on Prout in various parts of the country.
A complete video of the proceedings, in both English and Hindi, can be viewed at:

NOTE: The program begins at 13:50 into the recording so please jump ahead to the opening remarks by Rajesh Singh, one the key organizers.

The program was opened by Dr. Gunjan Kumar, Assistant Prof. Economics, Ramjas College, Delhi University and Advocate Amitabh Verma, Lawyer High Court Supreme Court

Guest speakers included: Dr. Onkar Mittal, a senior social activist; Shri Satyaprakash Bharat, social reformer; Shri Anuj Agarwal, General Secretary, Maulik Bharat Advocate D R Nigam, Lawyer par excellence High Court & Supreme Court; Mr Nishikant Mohapatra, political analyst; Shri Kalyan Anand, social activist; Ms Dipali Sharma, Director, Action Aid

(more details on each of the speakers below)

A PROUT Panel on Economic Democracy was presented by: Mr. Rajesh Singh, Mr. Antarang Anand Yogi, and Mr. Niranjan Kumar

Details about Guest Speakers:

Dr. Onkar Mittal – MBBS, worked with DFID (Government of U.K), and then in social service for more than 35 years. Has been working extensively for health, wellness, primary medical care and sustainable livelihood most recently in villages in Ludhiana and Moga district of Punjab affected by drug related issues, and in Jharkhand by alcoholism; working to raise awareness of status of women in distress especially widows of Vrindavan,  and various issues with NGOs such as *Bhartiye Jan Parshad Manch and as President of Society for Action in Community Health, Civil Society Network – Delhi , as well as UNICEF, DFID.

Shri Satyaprakash Bharat – National Leader starting from participation in the Baba Amte’s Bharat Jodo Abhiyan Nationwide Cycle March from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. He is strength behind establishment of so many National level People’s movements such as Azadi Bachao Andolan and Yuva Bharat amongst so many others. He is Motivation behind thousands of Youth towards Universal Human Values

Mr. Anuj Agarwal – Editor & Publisher of Dialogue India; National General Secretary of Maulik Bharat; prolific journalist, writer, educationist and motivator. He is keenly associated with various social activities and recipient of Karamveer Chakra by International Confederation of NGOs, affiliated to United Nations.

Adv. DR Nigam – A practicing lawyer in Delhi High Court & Supreme Court, ‘par excellence’; recognized face of TV debates where he is called for his opinion on complex legal and social issues.

Mr. Nishikant Mohapatra – RTI Activist, Poltical  Analyst  and Research Scholar at JNU

Shri Kalyan Anand – General Secretary of Lokshakti Abhiyan, 2017 Green Nobel Prize winning Organisation; National Coordinator of Jan Sangharsh Samanvyaya Samiti; NAPM…National Alliance of People’s Movenent Odisha State Convener,  Yusuf Meherally Centre’s National Relief Coordinator and Odisha State Incharge; Editor of Indus Valley Times, 1st English fortnightly of Odisha

Ms Dipali Sharma – Director, Organizational Effectiveness in Action Aid; 20 years of experience in the social development sector for rights and entitlements for the most poor and the marginalized, women’s empowerment, child rights, land and water campaigns etc. Also supporting youth engagement programs in colleges and universities for  social justice and equality; looking after Corporate Social Responsibility of Action Aid.

 

Economic Democracy Seminar Held in New Delhi
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PROUT Norway marches for the promotion of local fodder in agriculture

Report by Ole Morten Lyng with Edvard Mogstad

On Saturday, 29th September PROUT Norge (Prout Norway) participated in the demonstration they had catalyzed to raise consciousness about the import of soy from Brazil as feed for livestock and fisheries. Approximately 100 participants gathered including members and activists from LAG (Latin American Groups of Norway), NU (Nature and Youth), and Nyt Orientering (New Orientation).

The protest received significant coverage in two major newspapers, Nationen (The Nation) and Aftenposten (Evening Post). Prior to this action on the streets an article by Ole Morten Lyng discussing the topic was widely circulated in various media.

In recent decades, Norwegian agriculture has been portrayed as being an important part of developing the local economy, especially dairy and pork production. Traditionally the feed for livestock has been based on hay or other products grown in Norway. After the development of power feed, fish oil and fish products have been used.

Nowadays however, soy imported from huge farms in the Brazilian savanna of Mato Grosso, comprise 50% of the ingredients in the power feed. The Brazilian soy farms are based on mono culture farming and are very harmful to the environment. Usually the original small farmers, many of whom were native peoples, have been expelled, bought out or otherwise gotten rid of. Many of them now work as seasonal farm hands, more or less in what can be termed as slave conditions. Along the main routes one can find collections of shacks where these people live.

The owners of these farms are normally agro investors who speculate in big farming. They belong to the Brazilian elite, living in the big cities, who control and determine the direction of this socially and economically very divided country. Amagii, the corporation that owns and controls the soy export to Norway also holds majority stock in Denofa, the Norwegian firm that imports the soy.

Fish farming is another important area of production that brings great revenues to Norway. In fact it comes as second or third after oil exports. The fish feed also depends on Brazilian soy. The same applies to the fish farming industry as to animal rearing.

For Norwegian agriculture and fish farming to depend on imports from the other side of the world is unacceptable. It is receiving more attention these days and therefore efforts have been initiated to find local alternatives. These efforts need to be intensified and given priority. Norwegian authorities insist that the soy imported complies with Norwegian regulations regarding insecticides, pest control and rain forest destruction. Amaggi insists upon the same. There have been investigative delegations on site in Mato Grosso from Norway, from LAG as well as The Future Is in Our Hands (Framitden i Var Handen), to check for compliance with the regulations. They were allowed to visit the offices of Amaggi but not the individual farms in question.

It’s difficult to guarantee the so-called Norwegian farms are adhering to best environmental practices or whether they comply with Norwegian rules or not. Even if they are, the underlying problem of Norwegian economic self-sufficiency remains. And the status quo only perpetuates a highly unjust agricultural system that harms the local population as well as the environment. Moreover, monocultural faming is a global problem that threatens the planet as a whole.

PROUT Norway marches for the promotion of local fodder in agriculture
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