Cooperatives in Valais


Category:
Knowledge concerning nature
  • Social practices
Canton:

Description

A cooperative is a working or ownership collective in which the members have rights and duties as set down in statutes and regulations. While members' duties include participating in the work of the cooperative and assuming official functions, their rights include the use of goods and facilities owned by the cooperative.

In Valais, cooperatives arose out of medieval farming guilds. For centuries, these cooperatives governed agricultural life in Valais with rules and regulations, in particular pertaining to the use of common goods such as water, forests and alpine pastures. The cooperatives were responsible for constructing and maintaining collective infrastructure such as water channels, roads, alpine machinery and ovens. In spite of today’s changed environment, the cooperatives in Valais still fulfil important legal, economic, ecological and social functions.

A key issue for the cooperatives has always been the challenge of finding a balance between optimal use of resources and their sustainability. The joint administration and use of common goods helps to save on costs and strengthens cohesion among the members, reinforcing the sense of responsibility for the common good. These ecological and social functions give the cooperatives potential for the future.

Image gallery

  • Ferden in Lötschental: Alpine accounting with wooden documentation, ca 1925 © Albert Nyfeler/Mediathek Wallis, Martigny
  • Grands-Plans ob Verbier: Shepherds drawing lots for milking, 1945 © Max Kettel/Mediathek Wallis, Martigny
  • Alp Thyon: End of the alpine summer, ca 1935 © Raymond Schmid/Mediathek Wallis, Martigny
  • Riederalp Cooperative: Accounts from 1884 stipulating the number of cows members were entitled to graze © Alpmuseum Riederalp
  • Excerpt from the regulations of the Alp Ried-Mörel cooperative from 1919 © Alpmuseum Riederalp
  • Borterlap in Turtmanntal: The wooden documents recording members’ rights and obligations, 1925-1967 © Geschichtsmuseum Wallis, Sitten
  • Savièse: Alpscheit, a wooden document from an alpine cooperative, 1839 © Geschichtsmuseum Wallis, Sitten
  • Ferden in Lötschental: Alpine accounting with wooden documentation, ca 1925 © Albert Nyfeler/Mediathek Wallis, Martigny
  • Grands-Plans ob Verbier: Shepherds drawing lots for milking, 1945 © Max Kettel/Mediathek Wallis, Martigny
  • Alp Thyon: End of the alpine summer, ca 1935 © Raymond Schmid/Mediathek Wallis, Martigny
  • Riederalp Cooperative: Accounts from 1884 stipulating the number of cows members were entitled to graze © Alpmuseum Riederalp
  • Excerpt from the regulations of the Alp Ried-Mörel cooperative from 1919 © Alpmuseum Riederalp
  • Borterlap in Turtmanntal: The wooden documents recording members’ rights and obligations, 1925-1967 © Geschichtsmuseum Wallis, Sitten
  • Savièse: Alpscheit, a wooden document from an alpine cooperative, 1839 © Geschichtsmuseum Wallis, Sitten

Video

End of the alpine summer on Alp Thyon, 1933 © Raymond Schmid/Mediathek Wallis, Martigny

References and documentation

Publications
  • Etienne Bruttin : Essai sur le statut juridique des consortages d’alpages valaisans. Sion, 1931

  • Louis Carlen: Genossenschaftliche Selbsthilfe. Zur Entwicklung und Bedeutung der Genossenschaften. In: Mensch und Wirtschaft 3. St. Gallen, 1960

  • Werner Kämpfen: Ein Burgerrechtsstreit im Wallis rechtlich und geschichtlich betrachtet. Mit einem Überblick über das Walliser Geteilschafts-, Burgerschafts- und Gemeindewesen. Zürich, 1942

  • Werner Kämpfen : Les Bourgeoisies du Valais. In : Annales valaisannes 1975. Sion, 1975, p. 129-176

  • Arnold Niederer: Gemeinwerk im Wallis. Bäuerliche Gemeinschaftsarbeit in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart. Basel, 1956

  • Elinor Ostrom : Gouvernance des biens communs. Pour une nouvelle approche des ressources naturelles. Bruxelles, 2010

  • Société d’histoire du Valais romand (Ed.) : Les bisses. Économie, société, patrimoine (Annales valaisannes 2010-2011). Sion, 2011

  • Ellen Burdette Wiegandt: Communalism and conflict in the swiss Alps. Ann Arbor (Michigan), 1977

  • Rémy Schweizer : Les bisses et leurs modes d’organisation au XXIe siècle, un modèle de gestion durable ? Etude de cas à Savièse (Cahiers de l’IDHEAP 257). Lausanne, 2010

Documentation