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By Heloisa Primavera
(condensed by GEO editors)

Barter clubs use their own “social money,”or local currency, distinct from the national monetary system. The production, distribution, and supervision of the local currency is self managed by the members. Modeling themselves on Argentinian barter networks, which rose in response to the economic crisis there, Brazilian barter clubs began in Sao Paolo in 1998. New projects were inspired by the World Social Forum, and by a 1999 conference in Buenos Aires of the Latin American Network of Solidarity-based Socio-Economy. Participants visited the city’s barter clubs and observed their projects. New projects then emerged in Rio de Janeiro as part of the Popular Cooperative Forum. In Porto Alegre and other southern cities clubs were formed thanks to the state government’s Solidarity-based People’s Economy program. Various social promotion NGO’s launched other initiatives in cities in many regions. Some noteworthy projects are:

GEP (the Popular Economy Group of Vitoria de Conquista), in the northern state of Bahia, is a whole network of alliances between the local government and solidarity based economy organizations that incorporates a social currency and has succeeded in boosting local production (inspired by a workshop organized by the Alliance 21 Social Money Workshop at the 2002 Porto Alegre World Social Forum).

The PALMAS Bank, an NGO in Fortaleza, the State of Ceara, has implemented many projects over the last six years. Solidarity finance has taken the form of barter clubs with locally circulated social currency, self-managed micro credit, rotary funds, popular fairs, and strategic plans for local development supported by community consultants. Alliances have been formed between municipal government and community organizations to enhance these projects.

A Strong Solidarity-based Economy Movement

There is now a strong solidarity-based economy movement in Brazil with over ten years experience, which has the clear and dedicated support of a national governmental agency within the Ministry of Work and Employment. In September 2004, the first “National Meeting of Barter Clubs took place, attended by 130 people from barter clubs and other democratic economic organizations throughout Brazil as well as guests from Argentina and Mexico. International guests included Luis Lopezllera from Mexico (Promotion of Popular Development), and Heloisa Primavera and Carlos del Valle from Argentina (Latin American Solidarity-based Socio-Economy network) who presented the Colibri project, which is about the be implemented in various Latin American countries. By training promoters of complete and sustainable local development, the Colibri project integrates various strategies for developing active and socially responsible citizenship. The meeting demonstrated that barter clubs with local currencies area becoming a national movement. When we recall that the idea crossed the borders of Brazil barely six years ago, we can see that paths full of promise are opening up to lead us to the creation of that other possible world.

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