Covid-19: Updates from the co-op movement for 14 April

Updates from the UK, Philippines, China and India


Manchester not-for-profit co-op Stitched Up has launched a pay-forward scheme to keep it afloat after lockdown measures cut off the bulk of its income.

The Chorlton co-op offers workshops and events to help the community embrace sustainable clothing, including clothes swaps, making and mending workshops, a free holiday club for young people, and craft courses for adults facing mental health challenges.

The new fundraising campaign allows supporters to make pledges which can be exchanged for workshops of equal value when the team can re-open their doors.

On the crowfunder, the team said: “We’re missing our classes and groups so much! But for now, we need to look after one another and stay home.

“Running as we do on a shoestring budget with very little reserves, the lockdown has left us in an extremely tricky situation, without the ready funds to pay our staff or overheads.

“If we are to survive this crisis, we have to think on our feet and completely reinvent the way we work.”

They added: “We want to use our time in lockdown to find ways of delivering some of our work online. AND to prepare an exciting new workshop schedule that’s ready to go live when face-to-face meetings in small groups are possible once more. We’ll be bringing you some amazing activities including natural dyeing, pattern drafting, upcycling, holiday clubs and more.“

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The Co-op Group Funeralcare’s updated guidelines for funeral service during the Covid-19 crisis mean the user of limousines will not be offered, to comply with social distancing, and mourners are asked to use their own transport to the funeral.

Because churches have stopped taking services or are closed, a church service cannot be included, although a short service at the graveside or crematorium is offered for a maximum of ten mourners.

It ask sthat anyone from the higher risk groups (over 70s, pregnant, immunocompromised) should not attend.

Embalming is not on offer during the lockdown and coffins cannot be brought to rest at people’s homes before the funeral. The deceased cannot be dressed in their own clothes and instead a high quality dressing robe is used.

Co-op Funeralcare says it is unable to take prints for silver fingerprints jewellery if the death is due to coronavirus.

It cannot offer catering services and that any donations are made direct to the chosen charity or organisation online.


South Africa

A sewing co-op in Khayelitsha, a township in Western Cape, is making facemasks to help reduce the spread of Covid-19 and generate income during lockdown,

Funded by the  National Development Agency (NDA), the Gwebza Multipurpose Primary Cooperative was forced to cease operations during lockdown but its 36 employees are working remotely to produce the masks.

“We have had to be creative to ensure that we are able to make money so none of our employees go hungry during this period. The face masks are very quick to make and we can produce in big volumes. We have local support but would like to grow the market wider,” said manager Linda Balide.

The co-op was formed in 2015 to address unemployment of young women – particularly those affected by gender-based violence.

“The full value chain is realised when co-operatives, such as this one, are able to identify economic opportunities beyond their usual core business,” said Mrs Thamo Mzobe, CEO of the NDA. “Even in times of crisis, opportunities like these present themselves. I would like to congratulate Gwebza Cooperative and all other co-operatives for their tenacity and courage.”


China’s rural supply and marketing co-ops have increased purchase of agri-produce from the Hubei Province, the region hardest hit by Covid-19.

They have bought 625m yuan (£70m) of goods including tea, vegetables, mushrooms and fruits. The All China Federation of Supply and Marketing Cooperatives said it has also helped farmers in the region by setting up a special site on its online sales platform and launching an emergency service on WeChat to promote sales.


Thiruvananthapuram Regional Co-operative Milk Producers’ Union (TRCMPU) has donated vegetables grown by its members to the community kitchen run by Thiruvananthapuram corporation. Items include snake gourds, ladies fingers, cucumbers, eggplants, elephant foot, amaranthus, yard beans, green chillies, tomatoes, ash gourds and plantains under the Haritha Milma scheme.

Dairy co-ops in East Kallada, Venmony and Vallikunnom also donated to community kitchens runs by various local bodies, the New Indian Express reported.


The national co-operative movement in the country has complied with a call by Senator Christopher Lawrence Bongo Go to use its community development fund to fight Covid-19 and help its community members mitigate its social and economic impact.

“We in the co-operative movement have largely heeded the call of Senator Bong Go to do our share in helping our members as well as the communities and barangay (villages) where our entities are located,” said the Philippine Cooperative Center.

“The forms of assistance that we have been extending include the donation of basic commodities such as food; preparation and distribution of food packs and hygienic aids; logistics support for health/medical workers through the provision of PPEs and engaging in sanitation/disinfecting work within coop offices as well as barangays.”

Also in the Philippines, electric co-operatives are looking at ways to subsidise the electricity consumption of poor households, after the lockdown of the main island of Luzon was extended to 30 April.

Edgardo Masongsong, administrator of the National Electrification Administration, said the proposed electricity subsidy programme is aimed at helping poor Filipino electricity consumers in the countryside, whose primary sources of income and livelihoods have been disrupted by the crisis.

“To show solidarity in dealing with this crisis, electric co-operatives are exploring all means to continuously deliver electricity services to their respective consumers, as well as mitigate the cost of electric consumption,” he said.