The history of the cooperative movement in Brazil
The cooperative movement
History in Brazil
Free from the influence of the State
The culture of cooperatives has been present in Brazil since Portuguese colonial times.
Later, at the end of the 19th century, the process developed into the Brazilian
Cooperative Movement, which included civil servants, the military, liberal professionals,
The movement began in an urban setting, and the first Brazilian consumers' cooperative,
the Sociedade Cooperativa Econômica dos Funcionários Públicos de Ouro Preto
(the Ouro Preto Civil Servants' Economic Cooperative Society), was set up in 1889,
in Ouro Preto, in the state of Minas Gerais. It later expanded into the states of
Pernambuco, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Rio Grande do Sul, as well as throughout
the state of Minas Gerais.
In 1902, the first credit cooperatives appeared in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, by
initiative of the Swiss priest Theodor Amstadt. Since 1906, rural cooperatives have been
set up and developed by farmers and livestock producers, many of whom are of German or
Italian descent. Immigrants brought their cultural background, and experience in associative
labor and family community activities from their countries of origin, which motivated them
to organize cooperatives.
With the spread of the cooperative doctrine, cooperatives began expanding in an autonomous
manner, supplying the needs of their members, and free from speculators.
In spite of the expansion of the cooperative movement, little information was available on
the subject, due to the lack of appropriate learning material, the great geographical
distances and slave labor, which hampered the expansion of the cooperative system.
On December 2, 1969 the Brazilian Cooperative Organization was created, and in the
following year, the entity was duly notarized. The sole representative and defender
of national cooperative interests was thus formally born, a politically and religiously
neutral non-profit civil society.
Law 5.5764/71 regulated the setting up of cooperatives, but restricted the autonomy of
its members, and interfered in the creation, operation and oversight of cooperatives.
These restrictions were revoked by the 1988 Constitution, which prohibited the interference
of the State in associations, initiating the self-management of the cooperative enterprise.
In 1995, the Brazilian cooperative movement received international recognition. Mr Roberto
Rodrigues, former president of the Brazilian Cooperative Organization, was elected the
first non-European president of the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA), which
contributed significantly to the development of Brazilian cooperatives.
In 1998, the National Cooperative Learning Service (Sescoop) was created. It is the most
recent institution of the Brazilian "S" System, and works together with the OCB towards
cooperative education. It is responsible for the education, professional training, and
social organization and promotion of workers, members and employees of Brazilian cooperatives.
As the Brazilian cooperative movement enters the 21st century, it faces the challenge
of communication. As an active, structured and fundamental actor of the nation's economy,
we aim to be better known and understood as a strong and integrated system.