05 / 2002
Barter and free fair
The economical crisis in Argentina, that got more acute in the last few months, has known its premisses around fifty years ago. Though, the abundant natural resources of the country had until now masked the crisis and helped providing food to the poor. Equally, the poor people living in the country used to eat their own production and sell the extra products in town, which allowed them to have access to goods and services. During these days indeed, the civil society was closely linked to the country and the agriculture and there were a lot of exchanges between the city and the country. The "Green Revolution" of the sixties made the economical problems more acute. The introduction of new technologies in the farms and of a lot of synthetic chemicals, combined with the settling of gigantic firms in the country brought about unemployment for many day labourers and their consequent exile to already crowded cities. Today, the crisis means unemployment, low wages, increase of people deprived of a living wage, deprivation of food due to an uncontrolled increase of both the prices and an extreme poverty, all this leading to exclusion.
In midst of such a pessimistic setting, two initiatives have arised and do succeed in helping the Argentines in their daily life: the barter system and the free fair. Angel Arce, a family farmer coming from the San Cayetano Community, in the Corrientes province, participates to those two initiatives. He is an active member of the National Table of Family Farmers Organizations in Argentine (Mesa Nacional de Organizaciones de Productores Familiares de Argentina (MNOPF)). The MNOPF assembles 20 organizations of first and second grade, who submit legal solutions to the state administation for the defense of the family farmers’ interests. The MNOPF belongs to the Coordination of Family Producers in Mercosur (COPROFAM, Coordinadora de Productores Familiares de Mercosur).
The barter originated in the nineties in the poorest areas of Buenos Aires, the capital. Today, it has spread to more than three million persons all over the country. The system consists in exchanging goods and services for others, without the intervention of any money. The idea found its origins in a simple and terrible state of fact: the poor have no money to buy food and the farmers do not find to whom selling their products and can no longer afford tools, educational services, health services, etc. Indeed, the resources do exist but nobody can accede to them. The barter, which is absolutely free from any control by the ètate, organizes itself in clubs open to members only, who pay a symbolical subscription that helps the club functionning. Once a member, everyone "pays" for a good or a service in social money ("dinero social") or on credit. Those amounts shall then be used only by other members. The "barter club" of the Corrientes province opens once a week.
In the same way, the free fair is a quite original idea which contributes to the local development of Argentine’s communities. It is another marketing medium that is open to the whole civil society and uses money. Family farmers’ groups and craftsmen meet there with entrepreneurs and all those who transform raw material into value added products. All the products sold in the fair are natural and fresh, guaranted without genetically modified organisms and agrochemicals free. This informal network does not obey the ètate laws but is ruled by its proper laws. When buying in the fair, you do not pay any taxes. And the fair managed to involve institutions like non-governemental organizations, farmers’ organizations, the Church, municipalities, etc., that support it. The fair also conducts interesting training programs about how to make traditional sweets, liquors with local herbs and plants, how to take advantage of the local products, etc.
Angel underlines that thanks to those two innovative marketing media the entire argentine society rediscovers its farmers and gives price to their work. Moreover, the consumer now feels useful, protecting his environment when buying natural products. ëngel believes that, beyond the plain marketing option of the two systems, a real "mystic" surrounds those ways of exchanging goods and services through, particularly, the holding of meetings about natural medicine, gastronomy, traditions, etc. Today, its organizers wish that the fair would be legalized and that specific laws and norms that would admit its activity and provide it a juridical protection would be edicted. Those two alternatives are growing quickly throughout the country, either in the cities and in the country. Even if they are the obvious consequences of a national economical crisis, it is most unlikely that they would cease their activity. Their support to the communities and their contribution to local development are admitted by most of the Argentines.
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Interview with ARCE, Angel - email@example.com
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