COOPEHAF is a cooperative that was founded in Sarandi (a municipality inside the Rio Grande do Sul State, Brazil) in 2001 by family farmers who were members of the FETRAF-SUL/CUT (a Workers' Federation in Family Farming that is composed by organized groups of family farmers from the South of Brazil).
This initiative was driven by the need to organize and allocate resources for construction and/or reform of dignified houses in rural regions. Nowadays, the cooperative access three modalities of subsidies and loans: programme of Subsidiary for Social-Interest Housing (PSH), programme of Solidarity Credit (FDS) and Associative Letter of Credit programme (FGTS).
Since its constitution, FETRAF-SUL/CUT claimed for various demands in favour of Family Farming such as: rural credit, agriculture insurance and support to agro-industrialization, among others. However, those claims were not sufficient. For FETRAF-SUL/CUT, it was unconceivable to think about improving farming productivity when there was not policy for improving social conditions in rural areas. Facing this situation, it was necessary to guarantee rural housing for Family Farming.
Nevertheless, only housing does not guarantee social reproduction of family farmers in rural areas. Other issues should be considered. Rural housing could not be summarized in a physical space. Debates about family farming organization, citizen rights, cooperativism, social division of work (gender, youth), and organization of the domestic unit could help farmers in order to develop strategies for their social reproduction. Accessing housing programmes and all the details that involves, the evolution of the constructions or reforms and the process of empowerment (the Social Project) are considered as a social technology named “caprichando a morada” (caring for your home). Therefore, our proposal goes beyond the house, because includes enabling family farmers in sustainable practices for family farmers remain in their properties.
Since 2001, around 15.000 family farmers accessed rural housing in Santa Catarina, Rio Grande do Sul and Paraná. In 2006, the cooperative started to include other states, reaching 14 Brazilian states. It is observed a huge potential for growing in different Brazilian regions, considering a demand for a public policy that directed for attending the news of rural communities. Our new challenge is to replicate this experience in the new area of action. COOPERHAF had organized rural families in those states and registered in order to receive subsidies and loans during this year.