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Camila Souza Lima Frozza, 22, COOPERFIBRA, Brazil

Having a cooperative identity is knowing that unity is strength and that through cooperativism we can improve people’s reality, thus improving the world in which we live.

A Conversation with Camila

What does ‘cooperative identity’ mean to you?

Having a cooperative identity is knowing that unity is strength and that through cooperativism we can improve people’s reality, thus improving the world in which we live.

How would you explain what a cooperative is to someone who doesn’t know what it is?

A cooperative is when there is collaboration between people who share the same goals and seek to work together to improve their conditions and those around them.

Tell us about your cooperative

COOPERFIBRA was created in 2001 by 20 farmers, who saw cooperativism as an opportunity to change their lives and hundreds of other people by joining forces.

Most of these farmers left southern Brazil and everything they had, and came to the central-eastern part of the country in search of new opportunities, and also ways to produce the best cotton, corn, soybean and textile.

What makes your cooperative special?

COOPERFIBRA is special because my father is one of the founders and writers of the bylaws, and that fills me with pride and motivation. In essence, it has important pillars, such as promoting income for its members, involving families, fostering the development of young people, caring for the community (the whole city), being transparent and encouraging fellowship among members.

COOPERFIBRA also encourages the participation of the member cooperatives’ families and encourages young people to follow in their parents’ footsteps and develop in the cooperative environment.

How has your cooperative made a difference in the community where you live?

COOPERFIBRA gave farmers access to the global market and improved the social standing of farmers in the city of Campo Verde / MT, where I live, and also where the cooperative’s headquarters is. It has also provided jobs for the local community and income for farmers that will last generations, and that is the best social benefit for all of us.

How has your cooperative supported you?

COOPERFIBRA has always been available and open to the questions I have about management and functioning. I have access to managers who always welcome me and explain what I want to know. Every semester, I work with a group of students and whenever we need them, they are always willing to help us.

How has your cooperative impacted you and made a difference in your life?

The cooperative helped my family to develop our farm business. It gave me opportunities to see the world through different eyes — not just with the eyes of voracious capitalism.

Through COOPERFIBRA, I have attended leadership workshops and spent time with young people my age like me who also want to learn and get more answers. All that I’ve learned motivates me to believe in cooperativism more and more. Not only as a “business” model but as a lifestyle. For my family, my parents are also more mature and wiser. Our cooperative lifestyle allows us to live in the best possible way, and our whole family lives within cooperative values and principles.

How do you hope to impact your community in the future?

There’s a phrase that my mother says that basically means “actions speak louder than words.”  I want to set an example for the youth. To do this, I want to learn a lot and be a leader in dairy farming and cooperativism. When I have finished my education, I want to go back to my community and my family farm, to work and show the young people, dairy producers, university students, how cooperativism is the best way. And I want to inspire them to continue working with their family farms like me.