Cooperative Grocery Stores in Kufur Ne'meh Village
By Samer Sharif and Naef Ishtayeh
In Kufur Ne'meh village west of Ramallah,villagers have established cooperative grocery stores providing residents of each neighborhood with items they need at the best possible prices.Profits from these stores are distributed among the members of the cooperative.
The idea of cooperative groceries emerged during the first Intifada (uprising) of 1987, when most of the villagers lost their jobs and prices increased rapidly due to closures and the difficulty of obtaining consumer goods. Prices stayed high even after the political situation calmed because some business people, driven by greed, took advantage of people's need to buy certain products, regardless of price.
The villagers first tried to establish a livestock cooperative to provide fodder for their animals, but for various reasons, the cooperative closed after a short period of time. But the villagers did not give up, and they started to establish one cooperative after another. The youth of Kufur Ne'meh started a grocery cooperative that was funded by membership fees, each participant paying 100 Jordanian Dinars (about $140 US dollars). There were plenty of participants. The cooperative was successful and the substantial profits were distributed fairly among members.
Currently, there are several grocery cooperatives in Kufur Ne'meh, one in each neighborhood. One of the early cooperatives is the Islamic Cooperative on the western side of the village. Others are the Al-Amana cooperative, Kufur Ne'meh Cooperative and Al-Salam cooperative.
The cooperative is responsible for its members. It was established to help them, so in addition to sharing in the profits, members can also take loans if they are in need, explained Mr. Mohammad Ishaq (Abu Al-Abed), father and breadwinner of a family of eight, a worker in Al-Amana Cooperative. Younis Al-Deek, who is in charge of Al-Amana Cooperative and its 39 member families elaborated: The main idea is to control prices. When a grocery store is run by an employee with a guaranteed monthly salary, he stops trying to increase prices. And most of the customers are either members or their relatives, so there is a solid stream of solid, paying customers. Cooperatives provide consumer goods that families need, and the families' purchases increase the store's profits. Ghassan Al-Sayes, manager of Al-Salam cooperative said, I have been working in this grocery for two-and-one-half years. I'm learning how to be a good salesman, and I hope to gain enough experience to be able to open a new grocery store in Ramallah someday.
This experience shows that in some ways the Intifada was not an obstacle for the villagers of Kufur Ne'meh. On the contrary, it created a spirit of initiative and partnership that thrives even today.