Reporter: Graeme Butler

They say money doesn't grow on trees but in Ron Botman's garden it does. The currency here is gumnuts.

The gumnuts are the nominal currency of the 'LETS' group; The Local Exchange Trading System. It's a sort of barter trade idea.

Ron is a member of a 'LETS' group in the Perth hills. He's organised a group of members to help him and wife Claire with their garden.

"We're just resetting the veggie patch for the winter and it's just a matter of turning over the dead things that are in there and digging them out and planting new seedlings and just having a bit of a prune of all the shrubs around the place".

Busy bees are fairly typical of the work done by 'LETS' members though it extends to services far beyond. Toni Warden offers computer training to clock up her gumnuts.

Here's an example of how the system works. Toni does computer training to earn gumnuts. She uses those gumnuts to get Shirley to do some sewing work. Ron and Claire use gumnuts to get their garden done and then earn points by offering their excess fruit and vegetables and so it goes on…

Members say it's a great way of getting a helping hand and saving a few dollars along the way, especially as we head into a tougher economic climate.

Bartering is one of the oldest forms of trade. This system differs slightly because it's not a case of directly swapping but it's still the basic principal.

Peter Kenyon is a professor of economic policy at Curtin University. He says Barter systems often run in to trouble and people should go in with their eyes open.

"The great problem with those sorts of private money schemes is that almost always someone mucks up in the sense that they've got too many demands on the system and not enough credits and everyone gets annoyed with them and the whole system breaks down".

The 'LETS' scheme has been operating for just over 20 years all over the world and this one in the hills has been running for about a decade. Those who use it regularly say they haven't looked back.

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