Sunday, October 10, 2010

Salinas. Take two.

The last week of September we saw six straight days of nonstop rain and, of course, Casas Viejas flooded once again. I was beginning to think we should rename the town to Casas Mojadas (wet houses) but then remarkably on Tuesday the rain stopped. Everyone in my town is convinced that "ya se fue la lluvia" (the rain has left) and summer is now upon us.

With summer comes sunshine and with sunshine comes the salt harvest season. On Friday the Cooperative had a meeting to discuss what will become of our salina this year. Since we are still paying off debts from last year's harvest, going into the meeting I was prepared to convince the socios that we need not go into another year hastily. I discussed with them the importance of planning and mentioned that if we aren't going to work the salinas we need to start investigating what we can do with the land and equipment- assets that we could rent to make back some of our investment. After my little spiel, Toribio, the secretary, did a vote to see who wanted to invest in the salinas another year. Four socios voted affirmatively.

Then to my delight Julio proposed an ingenious idea. He suggested that the Cooperative rent out the salina to the four socios who wanted to work the land. These socios would pay the Cooperative a set amount for the land, boards and nylon, a fee that the cooperative could then use to pay off the salinas debts. The socios who work the salina would be responsible for additional investments (gasoline, purchasing a new motor, etc), and supplying the labor. They would also reap any profits from sales. A huge benefit to this proposal is that the Coop would be guaranteed income. It also hands over the responsibility of the salinas to those few who actually want to work the land.

One of the biggest problems with the salinas last year was that no one wanted to work them. We lagged in prepping the land and lost weeks of harvesting time because the socios didn’t show up to help lay and mend the nylons. When the land was finally ready, we hired outside labor to harvest the salt. The point of a cooperative is to provide work for its associates. I never understood why we were paying a nonmember for labor- money that left the cooperative and benefited no socio. With this new system the four socios will be motivated to work because they will be putting their own money into the salina and will be forced to do a better job of managing the business. It puts the onus on them to make a profit. Brilliant. The four socios have until the 21st of October to decide if they are going to rent the land. If they do, I will be able to work with them on business planning, organizing, managing and finding buyers.

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