From food coops to democratic banks, what bypass we can take?

Aug 7, 2019 by

At first glance, the two lectures today did not seem to be related to each other. The first one addressed cooperation in organic farming; while the second one focused on democratic banking. However, there are some similarities, which we explore with a few questions in this blog:

  • What are the similar implications that food coops and democratic banks share?
  • What bypass could we take to address the current sectoral shortcomings?

Bypass for Alternative Foodways

Our world is going to crash one day. Population is still rising, and agricultural land decreasing. According to our lecturer Friedrich Leitgeb, almost 99% of commercial agriculture is not sustainable. Certified organic agriculture (1.1%) seems tricky in terms of sustainability, because of speculations, as I experienced in my home country – Slovakia. In this lecture, a few alternatives were mentioned: permaculture, food sovereignty, alternative food networks, civic food networks (i.e. collective bars, new groceries, retail cooperatives, people’s kitchen, subsistence farming and self-sufficiency, intentional communities, farm cooperatives, food sharing, food mapping, community gardens, food coops, community supported agriculture) and zero waste shops.

It is arguable that these alternatives could someday replace current commercial agriculture without starving the most vulnerable part of the earth’s population. I would rather propose to make smaller changes within commercial agriculture. Firstly, the introduction of technology as in precision agriculture. Secondly, split the field into smaller parts and plant trees or bushes between the fields in order to prevent erosion and at least slow down desiccation of the country. Water retention in the country is the most important precondition of sustainability in agriculture and organic farming does not solve this. All the ancient civilization deteriorate after they reach a certain level of drought once the water supply in the soil cannot be refilled, the end is near desertification.

Detour for Democratic banks

“We want more happiness, let’s start with the financial sector. Because this sector has the power to change the system.” – Bart Jan Krouwel

Nevertheless, the finance sector is also the most difficult sector to implement any changes due to high costs and extremely complicated regulations. In its current state, the majority of the commercial banks are not willing to invest in the agriculture sector due to the low return, unstable conditions and a constant lowering of the price for raw materials. However, we should remember that we are the clients of these commercial banks and as a customer, we shouldn’t forget our right to make investments that are aligned with our core values.

From the two lectures, we could see a great emphasis on local community and regional cooperation – the power of small entity should not be neglected. We could see a trend of reinstatement of the old models that have existed for centuries. We should embrace the sustainable thinking and ethical practice in the world of money, food, and the same goes for other areas of human life as well.


Written by: Xu Zhang (Sabrina) & Denisa Kovářová

Based on the lectures “Alternative Foodways: Community Supported Agriculture and Foodcoops”, held by Friedrich Leitgeb and “Democratic banks”, held by Bart Jan Krouwel during AEMS 2019.