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Posts tagged ‘Cooperatives’

Foodbanks – a modern day soup kitchen?

by Plaid Cymru AM Leanne Wood

From an Assembly Short Debate: 9th November 2011

Images of people queuing at soup kitchens in the 1930s were long consigned to history.

Fast forward 80 years and they are back in their modern equivalent.  Foodbanks feed the hungry, people who are unable to cope on limited incomes with rising food and energy prices.

Foodbanks have grown fast.  Last year there were 10 foodbanks in Wales. There are now 16.  Their expansion reflects growing demand.

The Welsh Government hopes to eradicate child poverty by 2020.  How can this happen while so many people can’t afford to buy food?    We know the situation is to get worse.  A report published this week by Sheffield Hallam University says that we can expect to see 45,000 people ejected from the welfare system in Wales as a result of changes to the benefits system.  This will hit people harder in the places where job prospects are severely limited.

The stories that the foodbank staff hear daily can be harrowing.  I’ve heard of a mother only having enough money to feed their children so she would eat paper towels to stave off the pains of an empty stomach. One man walked 10 miles from Blaina to Ebbw Vale to collect his food parcel because he didn’t have enough money for the bus.

The foodbank network in Wales has to date been unable to attract any substantial funding from Government but was successful with an application to the Big Lottery Fund for £160,000 over three years. This will allow 24 more foodbanks to be opened.

Fuel poverty is also far too prevalent in Wales and more and more people have to choose between heating and eating.  It is estimated 26% of households in Wales were in fuel poverty.  People in Wales pay around 10% more for electricity.  That combined with the poor quality of housing stock, the amount of homes that are off-network and the higher proportion of elderly and disabled people in our population means that fuel poverty is a great problem.

I’ve yet to hear from the Government how they intend to prevent growing numbers of people falling into fuel or food poverty as the economy worsens.

Food and fuel are basic necessities which no-one should be without.  Government intervention should ensure this basic minimum.

Foodbanks are here to stay for at least the time being so consideration should be given to what could help to make them self-sufficient.  Could the Welsh Government support the transition from a charity to a social enterprise for example?  Are there ways they could be supported financially?

Poverty can be felt more acutely in the more isolated parts of Wales because of its distance from urban areas where there tends to be more services. If the Government could agree to match fund transport equipment, for example, it would go a long way to ensuring that those struggling to afford food in our rural areas have some sort of safety net.

More and more people are growing their own food.  Is there a way for surplus produce to be offered for sale at low prices as advocated in the Greenprint for the Valleys document produced earlier this year?  One feature of the 1930s depression we should not forget is that home-grown food took the edge off the crisis for many families.  It was not uncommon for miners to come off a shift at the coal face and go straight to their allotment and work the land so their families would not go hungry.

There are too many people today in Wales going hungry.  The problem will not go away.  The Welsh Government must do all it can to tackle the causes of hunger and poverty.


The BBC Wales Report and video of the short debate are linked here

Foreign Policy for Wales – 25 Years of Nicaragua Solidarity

Leading activists from the Wales-Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign had two clear messages at the recent 25th anniversary of the campaign’s support for the Sandinistas.

Writes Luke Nicholas.

The first was from the Welsh-Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano Hughes- “I don’t believe in charity, I believe in solidarity. Charity is vertical. Solidarity is horizontal”. The second quotation that rang loud and clear at the event in Cardiff has been doing the rounds in Scotland amidst the positive political changes that have been taking place there; Alasdair Gray’s “work as if you live in the early days of a better nation”.

Surely it is time now for Wales to have a foreign policy. Wales has developed extensive international links since devolution began, to the credit of First Ministers Rhodri Morgan and Carwyn Jones. But although we are an internationalist country, Wales’ outward links under devolution have generally been based on charity, not solidarity. The charity aid projects that the Welsh Government has supported in Africa need to continue. But what we now need, in this changing world and to reflect Wales’ national development, is for the Government to put Wales in the international context. The politicised tone of the Nicaraguan event reminded us of the potential we have to engage with other nations, and it is surely time to do so on a political basis, rather than just a humanitarian level.

At the meeting, Plaid Cymru Assembly Member, Leanne Wood called for Wales to seek Observer status in the ALBA bloc of Latin American nations. There has been talk in the past of non-American nations having this status. The Palestinians and Syria have been mooted, because of their large diasporic communities in Latin America. Why not Wales? Our shared history of indigenous struggles and imperial exploitation would justify it. Our Welsh Ministers (from Labour and Plaid Cymru) have already incorporated aspects of Cuban literacy and agricultural policy into their own plans. It does not mean agreeing with every policy promoted by the ALBA bloc, but would give Wales a new avenue in which to contribute ideas on how we can create a better world.

Nicaragua’s Charge D’Affairs in the UK, Guisell Morales-Echaverry, reported the achievements of President Daniel Ortega’s Christian Socialist Solidarity project, which is the democratic socialist programme that is relevant to Nicaragua’s current conditions. Julie Morgan noted Nicaragua’s strong economic growth, and Leanne Wood reported the progress on reducing unemployment among women in rural Nicaragua, 60,000 of whom have been organised by the Sandinista government into independent co-operatives which are now producing wealth and goods. She also crucially expressed hope that the issue of women’s’ reproductive rights can be improved in Nicaragua and the rest of Latin America, reminding us that our solidarity allows us to also suggest where our friends are going wrong.

The goodwill from First Minister Carwyn Jones, and Julie Morgan AM (a longstanding friend of Nicaragua) was welcome, and Vaughan Gething AM’s chairing of the event was engaging and enjoyable. The challenge for the Welsh left, of all parties and none, is to build on this goodwill and develop a Welsh foreign policy of our own. It would require a leap of faith for Welsh Labour, but would not be going against their history of solidarity with a whole range of causes, particularly in promoting Somaliland, whose representatives were invited by Rhodri Morgan to the National Assembly in 2006. It would also fulfil Plaid Cymru’s international outlook, with potential for expanding relationships with stateless nations such as the Saharawis or the Mapuche people in Chile, both of whom have had delegations to Plaid Conferences in recent years.

The history of the Wales-Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign points the way to a better and fairer world. The video clips of representatives from Nicaragua’s diverse range of communities thanking the people of Wales, and making direct reference to Wales’ linguistic and social traditions, showed that the campaign has created a space for Wales in the psyche of the Nicaraguan people. If we believe that another world is possible, we owe it to the rest of the world to not hide behind British foreign policy but to forge our own path.

Locals form co-op to open centre ‘for all things Welsh’

Local people in Wrecsam have banded together to form a community cooperative to open a Welsh Centre in the town as a permanent legacy to this summer’s successful National Eisteddfod. As well as raising £29,000 in just 7 weeks, more than 100 potential investors have attended meetings to re-open the old Seven Stars pub as a Welsh Centre.

The community cooperative planning to re-open the historic Victorian pub in Chester St. said it was delighted at the response to their open meetings, which were held in the listed building.

Councillor Marc Jones, who chairs the venture, said: “We had a very positive response from people who came. Many were pleasantly surprised to see the downstairs area in such good condition, as it had recently been refurbished before it closed suddenly last year. I think that helped many to decide that this was an investment they were ready to make and become members of the cooperative.

Saith Seren interior

“There are minor works to be done to make sure it’s in working order but it doesn’t take a leap of the imagination to see that we can be ready to open the downstairs before Christmas. We’re already talking to suppliers and there has been a lot of interest in renting the offices and meeting rooms we have planned for the upstairs area.

“The main challenge is to raise enough money to fit out the kitchen, buy stock, employ a manager and have enough working capital to see us over the first few months. We’ve already raised more than £29,000 and more cheques are arriving on a daily basis now.”

The centre will trade under the Welsh-language version of the Seven Stars – Saith Seren.

Potential investors can join for as little as £100 and can find out more about the scheme on The cooperative has also come to an arrangement with the local credit union to enable investors to take out a loan for the £100 and pay it back monthly. People are invited to join online and can pay through PayPal or by cheque here []

The cooperative will focus on providing locally sourced food and drink, with ambitious plans for a micro-brewery in the cellar to be run by Pene Coles, a board member and well-known local brewer. Plans are underway for a Saith Seren real ale exclusive to the pub as well as being one of the first places to stock the newly relaunched Wrexham Lager.

Cllr Jones said: “We are working flat out to get the centre open in time for Christmas. The enthusiasm for the idea from Welsh speakers, learners and parents who are sending their children to Welsh-medium schools has been very encouraging. This building is intended to be a centre for all things Welsh in the town and we see it very much as a permanent legacy of a very successful National Eisteddfod held here in August.”

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