Improving Rojava’s Economy: forming co-operatives in Serekaniye

This is a translation of an Arabic article by Brivan Hami that appeared on Ronahi on 12 October, 2018

The need to establish co-operative societies has been growing because of their role in improving people’s lives and achieving self-sufficiency, and also because they’re based on the principles of co-operation and communalism.

Ronahi visited the Centre of Co-operative Societies in Serekaniye, and met Agricultural Engineer and Administrator Basmah Abdul Rahman, who spoke to us about the necessity of establishing co-operative societies. She said, “Establishing co-operative societies is the best way to improve the reality of the economic situation. Co-operative societies should be established in all fields: trade, industrial and agricultural, also they should be supported financially.”

“Before authorising a project, the Centre studies it, and starts an inspection to check the presented information, then we have discussion with the person who presented the project, then finally the project is sent to the Union of Co-operative Societies in Al Hasakah, which co-ordinates with the Union of Co-operatives in Qamishlo.”

Projects that serve society

Basmah said that one of the most successful projects is the Mezopotamya Bakery, which is half automated. The bakery has many members.

“Most of the projects are agricultural, however there are other projects under way like a supermarket, a car wash, mills and ovens, also a women’s livestock project. There are many projects and they are currently being discussed.”

“The co-operative societies in Serekaniye are based on social, co-operative and communal principles. They are not established only to make profits, and for that reason the administrators of the co-operative societies form meetings and seminars with the participants in the villages and cities, in order to raise awareness and introduce the ideas of co-operatives to the people. It is important to rely on small businesses and encourage participation in co-ops. The organisers in those meetings and seminars also get a chance to listen to the complaints and the needs of the people.”

The co-operatives have strengthened the social fabric

The aim of co-operatives does not stop at securing the livelihood of citizens, they also connect and establish relations with one another as well. Co-operatives create connections between the members of society, and they are the pillars of mutual existence. Basmah mentioned many co-operative societies that have been rejected and were not granted authorisation for various reasons, including that some of those proposed would not have included all parts of society. Some of them would only have been open for family members, and that goes against the internal rules of co-operative societies.

There are 18 co-operative societies in Serekaniye, including 13 agricultural co-ops, Mezopotamya Bakery, and two commercial projects.

The profits of the agricultural projects

The co-operative society Hevgirtin opened Mezopotamya Bakery, which is half automated, from the profits that were made by the agricultural projects in the years 2015 and 2016. The participants in the agricultural societies planted barley in 60,000 dunams (decares) of land, and had 1,250 members, each of whom has received a dividend of 253,000 SYP. According to the internal system of co-operatives, 15% of profits are sent to the Centre of Co-operatives to help other co-operatives. Each member participated with a contribution of 33,000 SYP to open the bakery.

After several meetings held in the region, it was realised that the region needs a bakery. The number of participants in the bakery project was 700, but according to the internal system of co-operatives, the number of participants should be from 6 to 60 members because the large number of participants does not give a lot of benefit to people. The dividends have reached 9,500,000 SYP.

There are seven members who work in the bakery, three women and four men. The bakery produces two tons and 700 kg of bread. The monthly dividend is estimated about 1,100,000 SYP. The bread is sold to the people directly.

At the start of opening the bakery ten pieces of flat bread was sold for 200 SYP.

Fawaz Ahmed, an administrator of the Serekaniye bakery, works from 2pm until 9pm.

The formation of a union for co-operative societies.

A special union was formed to unite about 13 co-operatives. The size of the land that was used for cultivation was about 42 dunams. Last year, 612 tons of barely were planted. A loan was taken to buy the seeds, and it was paid back after the crops were sold. The Centre for Co-operative Societies announced a tender for the tractors to start working.

Administrator Ahmed Ali said that it’s very important to have farmers participating in co-operative societies. The Economic Committee will support the co-ops and provide them with petrol, manure and seeds, because the agricultural expenses are so high and that increases the burden on the farmers.

Fawaz Ahmed, another administrator for co-operative societies in Serekaniye, called on people to secure the barely crops, because the selling of barely in the black market will be about 150 SYP per kilo.