Working for a Shared Future
The headquarters of UNIPASV, a small cooperative in Santana da Vargem, has a before and an after.
The before is a hole in the wall, a one-room storefront split into two by a shaky wooden partition.
The after is purpose-built headquarters with four big rooms and a huge plot of land alongside.
The latter was started with the money from the premium paid to UNIPASV, the Union of Small Producers from Santana da Vargem. It is unfinished but UNIPASV's president hopes not for much longer. She hopes the cash from the year's premium will be enough to put plaster on the concrete walls and turn the shell of a house into something more resembling a home.
"We've spent 28,000 reais so far but we don't have enough money to finish it," said Beatriz Souza Pereira. "We need 15,000 reais to finish it and 10,000 reais for equipment and furniture. 25,000 will do it.
"We'll have a reception area, a room for the committee, two bathrooms and a kitchen. All we did was decide at a meeting. We have seven formal meetings a year and every month we meet to exchange ideas."
UNIPASV has some money in the bank but is keeping it aside to pay for running costs and the annual certification tax.
One day they hope to have enough to expand onto the adjacent land and construct a 200m2 warehouse to hold the members' harvest. In previous years they have bought books for a local school, furniture and a computer for their office.
Today UNIPASV boasts 80 member families and the average plot of land is between two and three hectares. It was founded in June 2000 and began selling Fair Trade in 2003. Only two other cooperatives sold Fair Trade before them. That means they are a reference for other nearby organizations.
"People come to us to hear our experiences," said Souza Pereira.