Mozambique: co-op pioneer Fr Prosperino dies

 Missionary priest Father Rocco Gallipoli, better known as Fr Prosperino, died on Wednesday night from heart failure, at the age of 71, after spending almost his entire life in Mozambique. Fr Prosperino, a strenuous defender of the rights of the poor, arrived from Italy in 1958 as a missionary of the Franciscan order of Capuchins. He began in Zambezia, organising 30 co-operatives for the farmers of Mopeia, claiming their liberty from State control. After independence in 1975, his concrete and free spirit soon alienated him from the sympathies of the FRELIMO (Liberation Front of Mozambique), at the time sole party. He was expelled from the nation in 1979, but the president at the time, Samora Machel, went to Italy and brought him back to Mozambique. Fr Prosperino was always concerned with empowering people to take control of the own lives. In 1980, he helped establish a union of seven co-ops - starting what later became one of the major farmers' organisations of Africa: the General Union of Agro-zootechnical Cooperatives of Maputo. Today the union he set up unites over 200 co-operatives - whose members are mostly female, and currently headed by a woman, Celina Cossa. The UGC consists of three independent institutions: UGC-General Union of cooperatives, UGC-Development Support and since 2000 UGC-Co-operative of savings and credit, focussed on microcredit for aviculture and other productive and commercial activities. There are now 6,200 co-op members, 85% of whom are women, bringing economic improvement for 30,000 people. Fr Prosperino also helped set up health centres and laboratories in the region, which are used by thousands of people each year. The activities of Fr Prosperino and the UGC have been studied by many international institutions, including the London School of Economics. "Producindo, formamo-nos e libertamo-nos" (Producing we form and free ourselves) was always the slogan of the UGC. In 2002 the Italian Head of State Carlo Azeglio Ciampi awarded him the 'Star of Knight of the Republic'. On Saturday, in the neighbourhood of Bagamoyo in Maputo, a ceremony organised by the UGC will be held in honour of Fr Prosperino, the Capucin that came from afar. Source: MISNA

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