Rural Development Plan – Co-operation
The Welsh Government’s Rural Development Plan proposals on promoting and facilitating co-operation are welcomed. We welcome the focus on enabling collective approaches to environmental projects and sustainable production alongside the support for community-based renewable energy schemes outlined in the proposed Rural Community Development Fund. Combined, these measures should support renewable energy co-operatives in rural areas. The benefits of renewable energy schemes led by community co-operatives and social enterprises are evident from projects such as Awel Aman Tawe. The benefits of projects like Awel Aman Tawe include:
- Improved community buy-in for the renewable energy project as the community has a stake and voice in how the project is run
- Sale of electricity to fund local projects
- Care for the environment through the production of clean electricity and a commitment to preserving local natural environment
- Increase in awareness of clean energy and climate change
We also welcome the proposals for co-operation among operators to aid short supply chains, improve business competitiveness and grow local markets. At the Wales Co-operative Centre, we support businesses to form co-operative consortia. This approach has particular advantages for rural businesses that may not otherwise be able to benefit from economies of scale or population density in the same way as urban businesses can. It allows businesses to work together to bid for bigger contracts in addition to having cost savings through marketing efficiencies and sharing IT and infrastructure costs.
There are good examples of where this is already happening with food and drink producers in Wales. Calon Wen brings together Welsh organic dairy farmers to supply organic milk products throughout Wales and the UK. The co-operative was born out of a desire to ensure that as much Welsh organic milk is processed in Wales as possible. Since its formation, it has developed innovative partnerships with suppliers and customers. It has a close supplier relationship with Rachel’s Dairy, and supplies products to Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury and Waitrose as well as other key customers across the UK.