The next step for cooperatives is certification
There is a broad asymmetry of market information in Morocco, especially for tourists. Sellers always have the advantage in knowing the true value of their goods, and in the souks, products are rarely branded, priced, or otherwise consistently labelled. Locals would have more expertise in discerning good quality materials from scams, but foreignersare more wary. Tourists are always pursuing authenticity in their new experiences, and want proof of legitimacy.
Accordingly, there needs to be an international verification for cooperatives. Just as products need to meet a standard to be certified organic, enterprises that claim to be cooperatives ought to meet a standard to use the label. The ICA launched the Cooperative Marque in 2013, to emphasize the viability of the cooperative structure as professional and contemporary. An expansion of that could decidedly label cooperatives for being ethical and developmental. The Moroccan Office du Développement de la Coopération has a form for cooperatives to register themselves, but this information is not easily or ostentatiously available on products. Cooperatives that claim to help women should be examined and have more legitimacy on a global scale.
Cooperatives have so much potential to sustainably lift people out of poverty. They can move people from subsistence agriculture to international commerce, bring communities together to capitalize on their shared resources, and improve living standards alongside economic opportunities. However, they need help. Cooperatives need assistance with facilitating dialogue and certification from an international standard. Cooperatives are founded upon trust between their members and the global public. While we celebrate them and all of the good they have done this week, let us support them as well.
Amy Zhang (email@example.com) is an Intern with the High Atlas Foundation in Marrakech, and a student at the University of Virginia studying Economics and Middle Eastern Studies.