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THE ORIGINS OF CO-OPERATIVES IN BARBADOS

The Co-operative idea was first sown in Barbados in the early 20th Century when Horace Plunkett visited the West Indies in 1911 and undertook the special task of introducing the idea. No major decisions or activities were however undertaken until the late 1940's.

As a pre-condition to the promotion of the Co-operative movement, a Co-operatives Officer was appointed in 1944 to the Department of Science and Agriculture. This appointment was made possible by a grant given from the Development of Welfare Funds.

Prior to 1944, there was an almost complete absence of co-operation, but the peasant agricultural instructors, together with the Co-operative Officer sought to change that attitude through the introduction of group activity as a means of demonstrating the value of co-operation. Areas of concentration for such activities were in the supply of slug poison, fertilizers and feeding stuff.

The first real co-operative activity began around 1947 when some members from the Roman Catholic Church formed a Co-operative Savings Society.

In November 1949, the Co-operative Societies Act was passed by the legislature and in 1950, the Co-operative Societies Rules made under the Act were enacted.

In 1951, the Director of Agriculture was appointed as temporary Registrar of Co-operatives.

Throughout this period, people still continued their group activities mentioned earlier, but from the beginning of 1952, interest in the formation of Co-operative Societies began to develop primarily for marketing peasants' canes. This interest arose directly as a result of a Domestic Sugar Agreement, which provided for an additional price above the basic price to be paid to co-operatives supplying canes in excess of 500 tons to any factory.

Other areas of interest were in the formation of Savings Societies and to a lesser extent Consumer Co-operatives. During this period the promotion of the movement was entrusted to a temporary Registrar and one Co-operatives Officer.

From the very beginning, efforts at Consumer Co-operatives met with failure. Analysis indicated that these groups were handicapped because of their inexperience in business management and the lack of support from members.

In 1950, it was the co-operative savings societies that became dominant, because they filled a great need among the people at that time. Many were eventually converted into credit unions.

Needless to say, since the idea of Co-operatives was new to the country, it was therefore necessary for Government to set up the kind of framework, which would encourage people and help to develop the movement. In 1961 a separate Co-operatives Department was established and a Registrar of Co-operatives appointed.

The Registrar was responsible for the general duty of organizing, carrying out and encouraging measures for the development of co-operatives.

 

HOW TO FORM A CO-OPERATIVE

Recommendation 127 of the International Labour Organization is concerned with the role of co-operatives in the economic and social development of developing countries.

Section 12 describes a co-operative as:

".....an association of persons who have voluntarily joined together to achieve a common end, through the formation of a democratically controlled organization, marking equitable contributions to the capital required and accepting a fair share of the risks and benefits of the undertaking in which the members actively participate."

Co-operatives basically are self help organizations and are guided by fundamental principles that give them a peculiar character, therefore their formation must be handled differently from that of other corporate entities

In addition, co-operatives are the beneficiaries of exemptions and privileges, therefore it is important to identify those that are genuine, as opposed to those that are nothing more than tax shelters.

Before a co-operative is registered, a great deal of preliminary work needs to be done.

1. Establishing Co-operation

A survey should be carried out to determine the following:-

    (a) The needs of the group.
    (b) The potential membership.
    (c) The potential volume of business.

2. Co-operative Education

    Understanding the co-operative way of doing business is a crucial, but neglected aspect of planning the establishment of a co-operative. This education should be carried out by representatives of the Co-operatives Department or by persons suitably qualified to do so. The purpose of such education is to sensitize potential members to the philosophy and principles of co-operation and the law governing co-operatives.

3. Organizing Committee

A steering committee should be set up to:

    (a) Formulate the By-laws for registration of the Co-operative.
    (b) Develop a business plan for the Society's first three (3) years of operations.
    (c) Recruit members in sufficient numbers.

4. Requirements for Registration

    (a) The Co-operative principles set out in Section 4 of the Act and any modifications thereto must be observed.
    (b) A Society may be formed by at least ten (10) members.
    (c) The minimum age for membership except in the case of a Junior Co-operative is sixteen (16) years.
    (d) A completed application in the prescribed form along with the application fee of twenty-five dollars ($25.00) must be presented to the Registrar of Co-operative Societies.
    (e) The application must be accompanied by three (3) copies of the proposed By-laws and a Business Plan.
    (f) If the registration of the Society is approved, a registration fee is payable:

        Credit Union $300.00
        Other Co-operatives $100.00
        Junior Co-operatives Nil

5. It should be noted hat the Business Plan must be realistic and that the proposed Society should have the prospect of being viable. It is not advisable that the formation of a co-operative be a single-person effort, but there must be enough people who are willing to give of their time and effort co-operatively, to ensure success of the venture.