Brazilian co-operators visit the Co-operative College

Stirling Smith, International Programmes Manager, the Co-operative College, tells Brazilian visitors about the FRICH tea project.A group of 14 co-operators from the state of Minas Gerais in Brazil spent a morning learning about the work of the Co-operative College.

The operation of the College, with its wide range of activities, was of great interest and the group took the opportunity to find out more about the different sectors of the UK movement. Of particular interest were funerals, as this is a sector in which co-operatives are not involved in Brazil, and co-operative schools, as well as the College’s provision of learning for elected members of co-operatives and its role in ensuring good governance in societies.

Dr Linda Shaw, the College’s Vice Principal, Research and International and Gillian Lonergan, the Head of Heritage Resources, were able to update their knowledge of co-operation in Brazil following their own trips a few years ago at the invitation of different Brazilian state co-operative movements. The visitors brought examples of co-operative products from Minas Gerais, including coffee from the largest coffee co-operative in the world, which produces five million tons per year. Comparisons were drawn between the Brazilian coffee co-operatives and the recent FRICH project in which the College worked with the Co-operative Group and small tea producers to set up producer co-operatives.

During their short trip to the UK the visitors, who included members of credit unions and consumer co-operatives, were interested to hear more about the history of the co-operative movement and the National Co-operative Archive and are already planning a return visit during 2012 when they will be able to see the reopened Rochdale Pioneers Museum and hold discussions in the new education space.

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