What is DASA?

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We are a small group of local folks, mostly involved in Latin American Solidarity, some from Just Coffee and from local coops - including the UW Center for Cooperatives. We are working to establish a sister relation with an agricultural area of Venezuela that is considered the birthplace of the Venezuelan cooperative movement. We think it is a good fit for Dane County given the large number of cooperatives in our area. Moreover, this relation could strengthen ties between coffee growers in Venezuela and consumers in Wisconsin.

Sistering is a great way to get to know people of other regions and cultures. It opens doors that vacation travel does not, by creating direct, people-to-people connections.

The mainstream media seem to only cover Venezuela’s oil resources and volatile president. There is much more going on in Venezuela that people in Dane County can learn about through a people-to-people relationship, without the filter of the media.

Dane County and Andrés Eloy Blanco actually have many things in common. Sanare is known as the birthplace of the cooperative movement, and Wisconsin is also a national leader in cooperatives. Both counties are also thriving agricultural areas. While Dane County grows corn, soybeans, and organic vegetables, Andrés Eloy Blanco specializes in coffee and potatoes. Both counties have many active agricultural cooperatives.

Andrés Eloy Blanco has a diverse ecology, including an amazing national park. Its citizens are leaders in the green movement in Venezuela. Dane County citizens share this concern for the environment, and many residents act to lead the state in going green.

DASA plans to facilitate exchanges focused on cooperatives, small business, and local government; all topics of interest to Dane County residents.

Who: Dane-Andrés Eloy Blanco Sistering Alliance (DASA) was formed by a small group of people with an interest in: Latin America, coffee, cooperatives, grassroots movements, and more. We meet in Madison and have a web site at dane-andres.org where you can see what we’re up to.

What: “Sistering” refers to a relationship of mutual exchange between two groups. There are sister churches, sister cities, sister counties, and many other sistering relationships around the world, with the goal of getting to know each other better through cultural, eductional, and business exchanges.

When: In October 2007, Venezuela’s Ambassador to the U.S. visited Dane County, meeting many people, including Dane County Supervisors and the UW Center for Cooperatives. DASA formed in the winter of 2007–2008, and Dane County officially approved the sistering on June 5, 2008.

Where: Andrés Eloy Blanco is a municipality (the closest thing to a county) in the state of Lara, in the country of Venezuela. Venezuela lies at the northern end of South America. The state of Lara is primarily agricultural. The “county seat” and major town in Andrés Eloy Blanco is Sanare (Sah-NAH-ray). Dane County is in south-central Wisconsin, in the upper midwest region of the USA.

The “How?” for this sistering relationship is where the fun begins! There are many ways we can be in relationship with our partners in Andrés Eloy Blanco (AEB, for short).

AEB has already kicked off the relationship by sending coffee! Just Coffee, a coffee roasting cooperative in Madison, accepted and roasted a shipment of coffee that is a blend of beans from several AEB coffee cooperatives. DASA is selling 100 bags of coffee as its first fundraiser (email coffee@dane-andres.org for more information).

The next steps for DASA are to make connections with like-minded organizations in both counties. Here are just a few ideas we’ll be exploring:

• Work with the local mayor of Sanare to identify non-profits, businesses, cooperatives, and grassroots organizations interested in an exchange.
• Send a delegation of Dane County residents to Andrés Eloy Blanco in 2009.
• Communicate by email to brainstorm common interests.
• Create a web site with photos and descriptions of groups in both counties.
• Connect agricultural cooperatives in both counties, to exchange of ideas.
• Host a delegation to visit Dane County from Venezuela in 2010.
• Spread the word in Dane County!