The Act Together for Pere Social Cooperative was founded in 2014 in order to tackle societal problems affecting the local community. The cooperative’s principal place of business is in Pere, a small village in Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén county, one of the more neglected areas in Hungary.
The settlement has 365 inhabitants, with approximately one third of them belonging to the Roma minority. Pere’s most critical issue is the high unemployment rate. Since roughly 95% of the active population work as public employees outside of the primary labour market and earning very little money, the majority of the population lives in deep poverty. The low level of income leads to several further problems, such as limited access to health care, low mobility, poor education, a lack of vocational training and experience, and a lack of local services. Housing conditions are rather poor: multigenerational co-habitation and deterioration of buildings is common, and in some homes there is a lack of proper heating, water supplies, sewage disposal or even electricity.
In 2017, the members of the cooperative developed a social enterprise idea to establish a community apiary in order to provide independent and sustainable solutions to unemployment, social exclusion and other related social issues in the village. It was planned that the bee colonies would be hosted by and taken care of by individuals participating in the programme (cooperative members or other participants), while the property rights of the bee colonies, the equipment and machinery, would continue to belong to the cooperative. The extracted honey was supposed to be sold by the cooperative, and after deducting the cooperative’s commissions, the profit would have been distributed among the participants and their families as additional income.
To test the business idea, a pilot project was developed in consultation with and supported by Badur Foundation. The pilot began in July 2018 and was planned to run up to November 2019. Included in the framework of the pilot was the purchase of the necessary equipment to establish and operate the first apiary of six bee colonies. In the first phase of the pilot, three individuals began to participate in a supervised training programme and were mentored by a beekeeping expert, Mr. Gergely Molnár (www.mezesgergo.hu).
Unfortunately, the pilot has come to a sudden halt as two members of the group dropped out due to health reasons. The cooperative strived to recruit new team members from the local community through different channels, but their efforts remained unfruitful. In consultation with the Foundation, it was decided to put an end to the pilot programme until the social embeddedness of the project is strengthened.
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