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Venezuela’s Currencies Promote Cooperation Not Competition

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

The global economic crisis has spread around the world and is bringing many problems in its wake.  As global currency markets gyrate wildly, and people find they can go from having wealth to being poor almost overnight, the question is being asked: “is there another way?”

The global economy is slowing rapidly. Even Iceland – a country recently named as having the best quality of life in the world (Human Development Index) (HDI) – has gone broke, and many other nations around the world will face serious economic crises. People will need to protect themselves from the worst effects of the fallout from various economic bubbles bursting.

Runaway inflation, as is occurring in Zimbabwe – reaching 231 million percent in October, 2008 according to official sources – shows faith in a country’s currency can be sorely tested. But do people and the poor in particular, need to be prisoners of the economy managed by a national currency?

The ‘prosumer’ movement (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prosumer), where consumers take an active role in re-shaping markets and economies to their benefit, around the world is looking for ways to bypass national currencies and make food, goods and services more affordable and stable, improving the lives of the poor. One way this is done is through alternative currencies (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternative_currency).

Cimarrones, or the Cimarron, joins 10 other alternative currencies currently in operation across Venezuela. They are circular cardboard tokens with a picture of a runaway slave on them.

Supported by Hugo Chavez, the country’s president, the new currencies are aimed at tackling poverty and establishing new economies. The currencies can’t be exchanged for the Venezuelan currency, the bolivar.

It works like this: to be a prosumer, you must first bring something to sell before you can buy anything. The range of products for sale at prosumer markets is not vast, but that isn’t the point.

“It’s magic,” Pablo Mayayo, an Argentinian advising Venezuela on prosumer schemes, told The Economist. “ When you take away money, which is the cause of almost all the great evils in the world, people relate to each other in a different way, by cooperating, not competing.”

Argentina pioneered so-called “barter markets” in response to its economic crises, helping people avoid starvation, looting and perhaps a revolution. By the end of 2002, there were 4,500 barter markets being used by half a million people producing 600 million credits.

“They were organized geographically around church halls, car parks and baseball courts,” recalled Peter North, a Liverpool University geographer. “They offered a wide range of products and services, supplied by professionals, trades people and farmers, as well as housewives and the unemployed. Stalls attracted ‘prosumers’ in their thousands, who paid with credit coupons issued by one or more barter markets. Everyone involved was both a prosumer and a producer, since you couldn’t purchase credits or exchange them for pesos.”

In Rio Chico, a small town in the Venezuelan coastal region of Barlovento, the prosumer currency market has people happy with the prices.

“I grow coconuts,” said Angenia Hernandez. “In the shops they cost 3.5 bolivares each (US $1.63) at the official exchange rate), but we we’re going to sell them at [the equivalent of] 1.5.” She calls it an end to “commercial fascism.”

Because of global currency speculation and investment flows, national currencies are not entirely at the control of national governments. High inflation seriously hurts the poor and low-waged, and national currencies can hurt the rural poor, who become prisoners to high interest rates charged by urban lenders.

Turning to a local, alternative currency has many advantages: it stops currency speculation, stops the flow of wealth to urban areas, preserves purchasing power, keeps trading local. Avoiding the draining away of wealth to middlemen, it addresses currency scarcity, and fosters greater awareness of how economies function and the mechanisms of trade

Criticism of these schemes say it is just a re-run of regressive company currencies and feudal tokens that were used in the past to control people and force them to only buy products from the landowner or boss.

In Papua New Guinea , shells are used for money and are called Tabu.  It is an ancient currency system used by the Tolai people of East New Britain Island . Stephen Demeulenaere (www.network-economies.com), who has worked on alternative currencies around the world and helped with the re-introduction of the Tabu in Papua New Guinea , sees it playing a key role in the local economy.

“Tabu was very effective at addressing poverty,” he said, “because anything could be purchased with it, from a handful of peanuts up to a piece of land or even a car, without needing national currency.  Tabu is produced traditionally by women, so theoretically nobody would suffer from a lack of it.  The advantage over the national currency is that it has a very long history of use, and people trust it more than the national currency.

“Tabu builds wealth by facilitating the exchange of locally-produced goods and services which may not circulate in a ‘national-currency only’ economy, and values activities that may not be considered to be economically viable if the use of national currency was the only option.  In the west we see this where ‘mother’s work’, hobbies, mutual-aid and other traditional under-valued but economically important activities are not valued monetarily.

“By encouraging the exchange of locally-produced goods and services, wealth is built in the community from the ground up.”

Over 75,000 people now use the shells, usually traded in great rings.

Getting the introduction of an alternative currency right is critical. In Argentina, such currencies were criticised for being manipulated by criminal gangs and political forces.

“The main advice I have is to study the community closely, and our website at http://www.complementarycurrency.org, provides free resources for people wishing to start their system,” Demeulenaere said.

“The system must be transparent so that people trust it and participate in maintaining its health and stability; democratic, so that it can not be abused by those in power; appropriate, so that it achieves general social and economic goals and aspirations of the community; and to be complementary to the regular economy so that the system helps its members to improve their lives economically.”

At the Jai Marketplace in Thailand , all of the goods in the market can be bought entirely in the local currency called “Jai’. Jai is convertible to Thai Baht or to organic, locally made cow fertilizer, and is designed to improve the local economy and the climate for micro, small and medium enterprises through the local exchange network.

Published: January 2009

Resources

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Southern Drink Challenges Corporate Dominance

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Across the global South, its thirsty people have long been a target market for Northern drinks companies. The ubiquity of the American soft drink Coca Cola, or even its rival Pepsi Cola, is testimony to that. Even the most remote village on the impoverished island of Haiti can offer an ice-cold Coke.

But the marketing power of these companies has a down side: it has pushed aside local drink brands based on traditional formulations. But in some countries, local brands are fighting back.

In India, the Cow Protection Department of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak (called RSS) based in Hardwar (www.hardwar.com), one of the four holy cities on the River Ganges, has produced a soft drink made from recycled cow urine. They call it ‘gau jal’ (Sanskrit for ‘cow water’) and it is set for a launch at the end of 2009.

The urine is highly processed to make the drink. “Don’t worry, it won’t smell like urine and will be tasty too,” Om Prakash told the Daily Mail. “Its unique selling point will be that it’s going to be very healthy. It won’t be like carbonated drinks and will be devoid of any toxins.”

The price will be less than American brands such as Coca Cola.

“We’re going to give them good competition as our drink is good for mankind,” he continued. “We may also think of exporting it.”

The drink contains not only cow urine but a blend of medicinal and ayurvedic herbs. Ayurveda is the 5,000-year-old ancient Indian health system.

The RSS was founded in 1925 and claims to have eight million members.

Cows are sacred to India’s Hindu population and killing them is illegal in many parts of India.Finding ways to make a living from cows’ waste products is common. Cow dung (manure) is already used as a fertilizer in villages. It is claimed the new soda pop will help with cancer, obesity and liver disease.

Another drink that has been consumed for its health-giving properties is Mongolian mare’s (female horse) milk. Studies by female scientists from Mongolia, South Korea and China for UNDP in the late 1990s found the milk was packed with vitamins and minerals and effective in treating liver diseases, cancer, intestine inflammations and tuberculosis.

Mongolians have used mare’s milk for centuries in their traditional diet. The drink, called airag in Mongolian, is consumed especially during traditional holidays.

There are eight times as many horses in Mongolia as the human population, which numbers 2.7 million, so the potential for this drink is enormous. The Food and Biotechnology Institute of the Mongolian University of Science and Technology (www.must.edu.mn/beta_new/) in association with the Swiss International Development Agency (www.sdc.admin.ch), has been developing technology to process mare’s milk, and make value-added products with it to create rural jobs. Under the project, eight kinds of beauty products have been manufactured so far using mare’s milk.

Published: July 2009

Resources

Just Food is a web portal packed with the latest news on the global food industry and packed with events and special briefings to fill entrepreneurs in on the difficult issues and constantly shifting market demands. Website: www.just-food.com

Brandchannel: The world’s only online exchange about branding, packed with resources, debates and contacts to help businesses intelligently build their brand. Website: www.brandchannel.com

Small businesses looking to develop their brand can find plenty of free advice and resources here. Website: www.brandingstrategyinsider.com

Growing Inclusive Markets, a new web portal from UNDP packed with case studies, heat maps and strategies on how to use markets to help the poor. Website: www.growinginclusivemarkets.org

Asia-Pacific Traditional Medicine and Herbal Technology Network: an excellent first stop for any entrepreneur, where they can find out standards and regulations and connect with education and training opportunities. Website: www.apctt-tm.net

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.

Southern Innovator’s online archive portal was launched in New York City, U.S.A. (home to the UN’s headquarters) in 2011 (southerninnovator.org).
Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

Categories
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Pulque: Aztec Drink Ferments New Economy

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Reviving traditional foods and drinks can be an income-boosting source of new economic activity. Many cultures can benefit from looking again at their rich traditions to find new ways to increase enterprise. This can be difficult at first. Big global brands have many initial advantages: they are backed by wealthy and experienced international companies and can deploy aggressive marketing and distribution power to get products into the hands of consumers. The power of Coca Cola to reach all corners of the earth is legendary.

But the case of Mexican drink pulque shows how marrying the power of an ancient taste with a younger demographic can rejuvenate businesses. This is important because many emerging countries across the South have young populations – and yet unemployment is also high among these youthful populations. Engaging the youth market will be critical to the future prosperity and development of these countries.

Pulque is also playing a part in Mexico’s tourism strategy: the state government in Tlaxcala (http://www.tlaxcala.gob.mx)has created a ‘Pulque Route’ to draw in tourists.

Having for decades lost ground to slickly marketed alternatives like beer and tequila, pulque drinking is being revived with the help of a new generation of Mexicans re-discovering a beverage that boasts origins reaching back to the Aztecs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aztec).

There is also another benefit to reviving ancient food and drink: alarm has been raised over the diminishing range of food products consumed by people around the world. Throughout the history of farming, around 7,000 species of plants have been domesticated. Yet everyday diets only draw on 30 percent of these plants, and even this number has been going down as more people consume mass-market foods (FAO).

Once-rich culinary traditions have wilted and left many people unsure what to do with formerly common vegetables and fruits, even if they can actually find them in markets.

One consequence has been poor nutrition resulting from the reduction in consumption of high-vitamin foods, leading to stunted mental and physical development across the global South.

Pulque (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulque) is made from the juice of maguey or agave (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agave), a spiky green plant. It has between three and four percent alcohol content. Unlike the well-known Mexican drink tequila, which is fermented and distilled to make a strong, clear alcoholic drink, pulque is a foamy and milky beverage that is fermented, not distilled.

Made from a sap harvested when the agave is mature, it appears in the Codex Borbonicus written by Aztec priests in the 1530s.

Advocates for the drink say it is high in Thiamine, Riboflavin, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid and packed with beneficial microbes for human digestion. It also has vitamins C, B-complex, D, E, amino acids and minerals such as iron and phosphorus.

Pulque had developed a bad reputation, with an image as a peasant drink lacking the class of tequila or beer. The stigma had built up over decades from its reputation as the favourite drink of alcoholic farmers, commonly depicted drinking pulque all day long.

Once pulque was available only at makeshift pulquerias: a few tables and chairs with farm animals roaming about. Portions were large, using gourds or, by the 1970s, plastic buckets. Some still sell the drink in this rough-and-ready fashion from containers hitched to donkeys.

Those behind the rebranding of the drink hope to move away from the former drinkers – largely poor, old and rural – to young urban drinkers. Pulque has taken on a “cool, retro” image tapping into a taste for connecting with Mexico’s Aztec roots.

In Pulqueria Las Duelistas in Mexico City, the young crowd like the new taste. “It is cooler than beer and a lot cheaper than Tequila,” Jaime Torres, a 22-year-old design student and computer tech for an advertising agency told the Washington Post. “It’s old Mexico.”

By 1886 a census found 817 pulquerias in Mexico City serving the residents of just 9,000 homes. By the 20th century, they had become so common that neighbourhoods would have a handful each. Now estimates place the number in Mexico City at between 60 and 100, with many closing when their owners die.

Las Duelistas is trying to buck that trend.

“This place has been in business for 92 years, and I have six as the owner, and I have totally changed the image of the pulqueria, a totally new concept, with different clientele,” said proprietor Arturo Garrido. “Most of my clients are young, and it is my way to continue giving life to the pulque.”

So, how have the pulquerias made themselves appealing to a new generation of drinkers? Music and new interior design have made the establishments more attractive to youth.

Pulque sells for 30 pesos, or about US $2.50, a litre. The most popular version is called curado (cured) and is infused with other flavours like strawberry, guava and celery to add greater appeal to a younger demographic.

“My customers aren’t old anymore. Now they’re young people,” said Nabor Martinez, the owner of another pulqueria, La Risa.

The drink is difficult to export because it keeps fermenting in the bottle or can. This makes it something special to Mexico, only enjoyed by a visit to the country.

Some, however, like Everado Gonzalez, director of the 2003 documentary “Pulque Song,” about an old-school establishment, lament the loss of the old atmosphere.

“A pulqueria is not a cantina. It’s not a bar,” Gonzalez said. “It is a refuge, or was, for the lowest classes of society. Your drink is cheap. You are not sitting at a table, with good manners. You don’t need a table. You sit on a bench, where you can do what you want, say what you want.

“It was a beautiful island of freedom.”

Published: September 2011

Resources

1) Teh Botol Sosro: It is a drink of cool, black, sweetened tea with a hint of jasmine. Invented by the Indonesian family of Sosrodjojos, Sosro was founded in central Java in the 1940s. Website: http://www.sosro.com

2) Just Food is a web portal packed with the latest news on the global food industry and packed with events and special briefings to fill entrepreneurs in on the difficult issues and constantly shifting market demands. Website:http://www.just-food.com

3) Small businesses looking to develop their brand can find plenty of free advice and resources here. Website:http://www.brandingstrategyinsider.com

4) Brandchannel: The world’s only online exchange about branding, packed with resources, debates and contacts to help businesses intelligently build their brand. Website:http://www.brandchannel.com


Mezcal or mescal, is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from any type of agave (Wikipedia). In the summer of 2022 Southern Innovator was introduced to the brand Marin&Marin (https://www.marinymarinmezcal.com). Their mezcal is hand made in a traditional Mexican way and is 100% organic and Fair Trade.  

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022