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A new co-operative building resilience to climate change

News item

31st January 2023
Climate action
Loading bamboo plants at the nursery in Malawi
Co-operative Climate Action: Loading bamboo plants at the nursery in Malawi

Co-operatives are being invited to offset their carbon emissions and at the same time help those worst affected by climate change.

Co-operative Climate Action is an innovative new co-operative which is combating the affects of climate change in the world's poorest areas.  

The Co-operatives UK member is offering 'co-offsets' which enable co-operatives to tackle poverty and support small community businesses in Malawi, a country devastated by the climate emergency despite its own low emissions.

Co-operative Climate Action has already launched a pilot scheme in the African nation that will help reduce carbon, sustain biodiversity, and help communities become economically sustainable in the long term. Led by Mark Lewis - former Chair of Wooldale Co-operative and founder director of The Fair Traders Co-operative - the co-operative's volunteer co-founders from the UK, France and Malawi have established a resource centre in Malawi, and undertaken a pilot planting of 360 giant clumping bamboo plants.

How are co-offsets different?
Offsetting sometimes has a bad rep... so how is co-offsetting different?

This non-invasive cultivar absorbs more than four times the amount of CO2 annually than the fastest growing trees and provides a sustainable source of fuel that removes the need to cut down mature trees. It can provide goat fodder, nutritious food, water treatment, erosion control, and replace steel and timber in construction. In Malawi, only a tiny minority have electricity and gas is unaffordable, so charcoal and firewood are used to cook and boil water. As a result, most mature forests have been devastated.

Rather than planting large commercial plantations, Co-operatives Climate Action is collaborating with the Wildlife and Environmental Association of Malawi, who have over three thousand volunteer groups around the country, to establish small community plots. This makes planting and care easier as well as reducing the need for women to carry the fuel long distances.

Smallholders contribute financially so they value the plants and can repay the cost after three years when harvesting starts. They are setting up a robust measurement, reporting and verification process and will be establishing a co-operative in Malawi to manage the project.

How can you get involved?

Co-operatives Climate Action is now hoping to expand its planting scheme and implement other projects with funding from the co-operative movement. Its vision is to build an international network of independent co-operatives to scale up impact by replicating successful models and sharing expertise. Co-operative Climate Action is funded by individuals and organisations seeking a co-operative alternative to buying conventional carbon offsets. Discover how your co-operative can offset its emissions.

Make a difference in Malawi

Businesses and individuals can offset their carbon emissions by helping Co-operative Climate Action expand its planting and projects work.