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Participants at the Second Asia-Pacific Co-operative Youth Summit

 

Why hold the Second Asia-Pacific Cooperative Youth Summit Lamac Barangay in Pinamugajan Municipality, Cebu Province, the Philippines? A good question! When we were discussing the idea of a Youth Summit in 2015, we felt it should be different in terms of place and program. The considerations for a place were: not a big city (definitely not the capital); opportunity to experience culture and local living; facilities for outdoor activities; and managed within the co-operative ecosystem (transport, stay, visits, shop). The mountainous Barangay of Lamac in Pinamugajan (name comes from the Cebuano word “pinamu-ohan”, which means a worker’s share in the harvest, depicting the mostly agricultural community) offered all these. Lamac was chosen because it is home to Lamac Multi-Purpose Cooperative  (LMPC) and to showcase the Organic Tourism Farm set up by Justine Limocon and Kevin Palson, the winners of the 2016 First Cooperative Youth Summit Co-op Pitch in Bali.

 

A little over two-hour’s drive from Cebu, Lamac is the Hidden Valley Wave Pool Resort run by LMPC. LMPC was started in 1973 by 70 tenant tillers and small farm owners with an initial capital P3,500 (US$70). Today LMPC has total assets of P1.5 billion (US$30 million), share capital of P429.9 million (US$8.6 million), and deposits of P611.5 million (US$12 million). Why should the luxury of lazing by the pool or enjoying the waves in a wave pool be just the past time of city folks and the well-heeled? Why can’t our farmers enjoy downtime with their family in resort settings? These were the thoughts the board and staff of LMPC, wrestled with when deciding to build the Hidden Valley Wave Pool Resort (See Co-operatives Build a Community).

 

The 147 youth representing 17 countries from the time they landed in Cebu had an experience of a lifetime. Cebu Gov. Hilario P. Davide III who was informed about the Summit was very particular about security and arranged a security escort from Cebu airport to Pinamugajan; which did help navigate the traffic (yes, there is traffic jam even in Cebu!). Mayor Glenn Baricuatro and the town of Pinamugajan arranged a rousing welcome parade, hoisting of country flags, and a ceremonial welcome dinner. Rachel Chao, the Chocolate Queen of Cebu took the youth through her journey in promoting locally grown cacao and in the process putting Philippines in the world map of chocolate. “Each of us can play our part in supporting local products and in empowering our farmers. We need to be passionate and put our love into whatever we do.” The rural immersion program arranged by the youth brigade of LMPC included hands on work in rice plantation, vermicomposting, grafting, spinning coir, and feeding cattle. The highlight was the lunch cook by the residents of Lamac Barangay and shared with all the participants! The youth has the opportunity to wade in the wave pool, laze in the infinity pool at the Resort and swim with whale sharks in Oslob. On the penultimate evening, Cebu Gov. Davide III graciously opened the doors of the Cebu Provincial Capital Building to the participants and treated them to a cultural show and dinner. In his welcome address he said, “Seeing you all tonight also inspires us to empower and engage more Cebuano youth to also start worthwhile initiatives that will further develop our communities here in Cebu Province.”   

 

We had an impressive list of young people talk to the youth about their journey in co-operatives. 11 years (yes!) young, Zoe Clavel, an Aflatoun saver from a cooperative in Iloilo in the Philippines is saving not only money but also the earth! She sees her young group as caretaker which build a better planet! Kanupriya Saigal epitomizes the spirit of her start-up, ‘Beepositive.’  A start-up mentored under IIT Delhi’s Women Entrepreneurship and Empowerment program, it aims to create a network of thousands of sustainable owner-operated beekeeping businesses which work together as cooperatives in communities across India. “We need to provide alternate sources of income to framers, especially women, through activities they can do on their own. Beekeeping is a Goldmine - “A BIG business in a small box!”

 

 

Trinh Thi Ly is one of the co-founders of the Sinh Duoc Cooperative. The cooperative is located in Ninh Binh provice known for Halong Bay, stunning landscapes, and lush rice fields. The cooperative consisting of youth and farmers aims is working to develop the Sinh Duoc Ecosystem by reviving local medicinal herbs, creating environmentally friendly products out the herbs and developing community tourism to promote local products, local culture and local living.  Younggi Kwon, a PhD student at the Sungkonghoe University, who attended the First Summit was back with two of his friends Wooyeol Sim and Yi Doo Yeong (both running co-operatives dealing with alternative education). Kwon is involved with CoopY a cooperative which was started in 2013 by the students and faculty at the Sungkonghoe University. CoopY carries out research and management consulting for social economy enterprises and co-operatives. This business helps bring in money to organize the ‘Youth Cooperative Conference,’ which has been organized every year since 2012. 

 

Samiramis Shahesmaili from Iran is a member of the Barg-e-No Research and Training cooperative and the Rah-e-Roshd Cooperative Educational and Cultural Complex. Barg-e-No is a newly-formed research and training cooperative institute started to raise public awareness about cooperatives and introduce the cooperative model as a viable option to make a better world. Samiramis spoke about her work in helping women involved in needlework to understand their art, raise awareness about rights and use co-operatives as a medium of empowerment. Yonten Dorji from Bhutan is the Chairperson of the Shamo Zhimpo Production Youth Cooperative. Dorji has received specialized training in the cultivation of mushrooms and is now in the process of training other youth, expanding membership in the cooperative, and contributing to sustainable agriculture.

 

Co-op Pitch is to hear from youth their ideas to start or expand co-operatives. We had 12 pitchers representing eight countries (China, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, and Vietnam). The panel of judges included Kanupriya Saigal, Milinda Raapaksha, Member, Colombo Municipal Council; Viknesh Rajendran, Chief  Executive  Officer, Koperasi Coop2u Berhad, Malaysia; Mark Villarin, Chairperson of RedRoot Artists Cooperative, Philippines; and Santosh Kumar, ICA-AP. They judged the pitches on five parameters: compliance with co-operative principles, scalability, innovation, presentation skills and relevance to youth.  The pitches were diverse from developing solar cooperatives to using drones to improve agriculture to developing alternative education tracks to addressing livelihood issues.

 

The first prize was won by Jun Long from Singapore for his pitch, Skyla Energy, a solar co-operative which aims to provide a complete customized energy service within a co-operative ecosystem. The second prize was shared by Trinh Thi Ly from Sinh Duoc Cooperative from Vietnam and the team from MiFly Aviation Cooperative from China. Trinh’s pitch was to develop the co-operative ecosystem around their herbal cooperative by adding experiential tourism (herb, place, living). Mifly’s pitch, Drone Crop Protection from above and beyond was to build a ‘Green Agriculture Network’ to provide customized drone care crop protection, collect data, and community service. Two honorable mentions to Koperasi Kopma UGM from Indonesia for their pitch to increase the livelihood opportunities for SMEs around campuses, and the Iloilo City Public Schools Teachers and Employees-Multi-Purpose Cooperative, from the Philippines for their pitch to produce lozenges using locally grown herbs to address common cold and respiratory issues.

 

It was very exciting to see and feel the energy, enthusiasm, excitement among the youth gathered.  Concern for the state of the environment, widening gap between the rich and poor, lack of leaders who could inspire and walls being erected to keep out people were on the minds of the youth. The desire to address local needs while connecting across borders was very evident. Much credit for the interest the youth have for co-operatives goes to the apex and parent co-operatives for reaching out to the youth, providing them space and opportunities to learn, experiment and develop.

 

My gratitude to Wan Mohd. Hasif Wan Muhamat Ali, Daniel Ang, Sébastien Chaillou, Lasalette Gumban, Brian Lariche, Tomas Leonor, Hilda Ojall, Benjie Oliva, Ankit Parihar, Noland Penas, and Jed Senthil for mentoring and motivating the youth. Special thanks to the board, staff and volunteers of LMPC for being an outstanding example of a cooperative which is bridging the past and the future. Dudz and his team at VICTO National and volunteers from our members for their wholehearted support. Our members in the Philippines- Aurora Integrated Multipurpose CooperativeCooperative Development AuthorityFederation of People's Sustainable Development CoopMASS-SPECC Coop Development CenterNational Confederation of Coops Inc., Philippine Cooperative CenterVICTO National Coop Federation & Development Center, and Union of Legitimate Service Contracting Coops – for supporting and building a network of young cooperators. My colleagues Anam Mittra, Mohit Dave, and Santosh Kumar for bringing us all together and delivering a terrific program!

 

Article by Mr. Balu Iyer, Regional Director, ICA-Asia Pacific