Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Updates and Rules for Cooperatives

We've all be working hard as we pull the last few weeks of work together for the SEA. It's hard to believe it is almost over, and yet as we settle in to write, it is amazing how much information and great ideas we've collected from everyone. So in advance, THANK YOU to all who have been so helpful to us.

The ideas of the day are now being funneled into the reports, but I can honestly say that Glenroy has some good ones coming up that are truly inspired.
Today we meet with the folks at Caroni (1975) Ltd. to go over their cooperatives models. There are a lot of challenges and a lot of opportunities here, and I'm hopeful that they are on the right path.

One of the issues we'll be talking about today is how to set up management institutions for cooperatives. This is based on neo-institutional political science theories which look at why do people get along in some cases and not others. (apologies to Professors Markus Crepaz and Bob Grafstein for the simplification)

Essentially if we look at institutions as rules of the game, the question then becomes how do you set up the rules so that everyone wins?

Elinor Ostrom, a brilliant woman who studies this issue and wrote "Governing the Commons"
outlines 8 design principles that exist in long lasting cooperatives

These are:

1. Clearly defined boundaries: essentially who has access to the particular project and who does not. In the case of the 2 acre Caroni farmers with property in the cooperatives - the holder of the lease, and those who work on the property have access. Those who don't fit this do not. It may require clarification in terms of taking of produce prior to official harvests, and there will need to be clear agreements on what the return on the investment will be to those leasing the land. 

2. Congruence between appropriation and provision: the rules have to match what the local conditions can provide. There must be sufficient resources for everyone to make a return on their investment. For example, if there is not enough water, there will not be enough crops, the investments won't yield the expected returns. This is important!

3. Collective-choice arrangements: who ever is governed by the rules of the cooperative has a say in modifying these rules at specific intervals. They need to know they have a right to help make the decisions.

4. Monitoring: the monitors who actively audit are accountable to all members of the cooperative and their findings must remain transparent at all times. This will be critical for these cooperatives to work.

5. Graduated sanctions: if there are violations to the operational rules, there are graduated sanctions depending on the seriousness of the offense. This applies to everyone working on and with the cooperative.

6. Conflict resolution mechanisms: if there is a disagreement, the members of the cooperative and the operators have access to a low cost local arena for resolution of the conflict. This should be done according to consensus based models to increase buy in and a sense of ownership in the outcome.

7. Minimal recognition of the rights to organize: this just means that the government agrees that these cooperatives have a right to be established and that they have a supporting structure for that without interfering in the governance of the cooperative.

and, for cooperatives that are part of other larger organizations:

8. Nested enterprises: meaning that the governance principles for the organization are reflected and supported by the next level up and, most importantly, they do not conflict with the operational rules set up at other levels. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Please visit the projects page to see some exciting new developments in the trends towards increasing food security throughout Trinidad and Tobago. 

Look specifically at the 

  1.   The Caroni WORKING DRAFT Cooperative Model

  1.  The Caroni Initiative for Food Production - Christine Sahadeo, UWI

    And please feel free to make your comments here!! They will be passed to the relevant folks! 

IDEA OF THE DAY! Social Infrastructure!

The increase building on the former Caroni (1975) Ltd. properties will have some significant impacts on communities as well as on the environment. People as a species do not deal well with changes when there is not control over it. 

As part of the development and planning process, and in order to improve public support, enhance the environment and make the area more livable, why not build in social infrastructure projects?

It does not need to be a huge investment, or even particularly expensive. By giving people a place to gather, to socialize and play creates a wonderful sense of community and strengthens communities. It gives a safe place for children to learn to be healthy and move and gives parents a place to enjoy too. 

One only needs to look across the Queen's Park Savannah in Port of Spain any afternoon, or weekend or evening to see the social benefits of such social infrastructure. It's a gift left for us to enjoy from earlier generations. 

What are we leaving the Trinidad's children to enjoy tomorrow?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Idea of the Day! The Edible School Yard

One key concern people have voiced is the younger generation's the lack of interest in agriculture.

A woman in California has been doing some very interesting work with a program called the Edible School Yard.

For a nice video on it click here.

So many kids get excited about growing things when they have a way to do it, and to be part of it. 

Idea of the Day! Bamboo!

In the US and Europe in the past decade there has been a major drive to use sustainably harvested wood, and renewable fibers. Bamboo has been the leader and even bamboo clothing has become quite popular. 

While I realize that different cultivars of bamboo have different uses, this may be a very sustainable and very lucrative crop, especially in areas which are more flood prone.

Additionally, a benefit of bamboo is the amount of Carbon is sequesters (captures) because carbon sequestration is bound to be a big issue in the coming months and years.

For more information on bamboo as a crop for use see EcoDesignz and Sustainable Flooring

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Idea of the Day! Retention Ponds!

We are playing a bit of catch up here today folks - not because there is a lack of ideas, but rather because the ideas are now coming in fast and furious!

A key issue for the newly developing agricultural sector will be the need for water for irrigation. Cane can rely on being rainfed, but new food crops will need water.

The full water system in Trinidad will not be immediately able to address these needs, so other alternatives should be considered. The over all rainfall for T&T is quite high, and with Climate Change predictions of more rainfall, but with increasing intensity, there are significant concerns about erosion and how the rain can be harvested.

We've addressed this earlier, however, for agriculture, retention ponds, with over flow areas and trees planted to reduce wind and sun based evaporation could be real solution!!

The soil in the Caroni lands with the heavy clay soil are excellent for retention ponds and can provide some much needed havens for beneficial wildlife as well. It's a win-win situation!

Idea of the Day! Grow Organic

There has been a recent movement in Trinidad and Tobago to build an organic production and certification coalition.

SEA Agroeconomist, Glenroy Ennis has recently attended a meeting in Port of Spain with proponents of this movement who are linking with the Organic Initiative for a Sustainable Caribbean, the organization responsible for getting Jamaican organic farmers certified.

Certified Organic give consumers assurances that the products are produced sustainably. AND it increases the asking price for fresh and processed produce, especially in the export markets!
(For local markets it may be another issue - especially if demand can be assessed!)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Idea of the Day! Double Digging a Garden Bed for better crops!

Today we had a very informative and productive meeting with some of the great folks down in Caroni (1975) Ltd. HQ in Couva. The meeting today was to go over baseline data. Kudos to the team for collecting some great data and for some very productive brainstorming!

Sugar as a carbon sink, climate change and goats for clearing lands were all fodder for discussions. A lot of great ideas came out of it and we are looking into them.

One idea that came up on the drive home is the technique called "double digging" a garden. It helps root crops thrive and also is great for soil remediation. One example is here, and another how to is here.

The soils here have some challenges. This technique could definitely be a way to over come some of the challenges, improve soil quality, and produce hardier crops!