Two countries in the Americas region have passed legislation to allow co-operatives to prosper without restrictions.
Cuba has set aside USD100 million to help fund co-operatives, while Brazil has passed a law to support the growth of worker co-operatives.
The Cuban pilot programme, announced in the country's parliament by economy minister Marino Murillo, will cover 222 co-operatives. Currently the country is dominated by agricultural co-operatives, but this programme will allow non-agricultural co-ops to exist and loosen restrictions on basic services and increase productivity.
Restrictions on the formation of co-operatives will be lessened and allow the start up of co-ops from food to transportation by the end of this year. The creation of mid-sized non-state co-operatives has been part of a long promised plan by President Raul Castro.
"For these co-operatives and the non-state entities, in the coming year USD100 million is being budgeted which is the financing necessary so they can be assured production, because if we create them and there is no financing, they won't work," Mr Murillo told lawmakers in one of the parliament's twice-a-year sessions.
He explained that co-operatives will lease state property and equipment at ten-year renewable intervals, operate on a market basis, pay taxes and divide profits among members as they see fit.
In South America, Brazil passed legislation on 19 July, following nine years of work carried out by Brazilian worker co-operatives. The law, which was approved by President Dilma Rousseff, establishes a clear regulation on the operation and administrative procedures for worker co-operatives.
It also helps to ensure the rights of the co-operative workers, while also dealing with legal problems such as the creation of pseudo co-operatives.
Brazil has a strong co-operative movement and the law has many supporters including Governor Geraldo Alckmin of San Paulo. Before being passed, it was approved unanimously by the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies on 27 June.
The Brazillian worker co-operatives worked with the International Organisation of Industrial Artisanal and Service Producers’ Co-operatives (CICOPA), and its members Central de Cooperativas e Empreendimientos Solidários (UNISOL) and Organização das Cooperativas Brasileiras (OCB).
Picture: Organopónico Vivero Alamar — an organic urban farm operating in Cuba.