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Cooperating on Cooperatives
By admin July 6, 2016

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Cooperatives

World Day for Cooperatives brought attention to the importance of agricultural, social and financial cooperatives in contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). According to the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA), cooperatives have seven major characteristics:

  1. Voluntary and open membership
  2. Democratic member control
  3. Member economic participation
  4. Autonomy and independence
  5. Provision of education, training and information
  6. Cooperation among cooperatives
  7. Concern for the community.

It is estimated that there about approximately 2.6 million cooperatives that employ 12.6 million people, are worth $20 trillion and generate $3 trillion each year. In regards to employment, there is a need to create over 600 million new jobs globally by 2030, and cooperatives can assist young people in obtaining work. While the idea of cooperatives is certainly not new, it still remains a relevant solution to several urgent challenges the world is facing today. Regardless of the sector they belong to – agricultural, social or financial, among others – cooperatives are considered vehicles of social inclusion and political and economic empowerment of their members. In particular, agricultural cooperatives offer low-income individuals with limited resources an opportunity to better compete in an increasingly competitive market.

The purpose of agricultural cooperatives is to help farmers increase their yields and income by pooling resources to support a collective service. They facilitate small producers by giving them increased access to natural resources, pooled information and knowledge, increased access to markets and technology, and increased power in policy and decision making. There are three main categories of cooperatives: agricultural inputs, joint production and agricultural marketing. Input supply cooperative concern the distribution of seeds and fertilizers to farmers. Joint production generally refers to operation of members on jointly owned agricultural plots. Lastly, agricultural marketing cooperative assist farmers in transforming, packaging, distributing and marketing their commodities. Thus, cooperatives give power to farmers and communities with limited financial and labor resources to control the entire supply chain for their crop. In effect, farmers will be able to attract traders and buyers, increase their negotiating power and maintain steady income. Moreover, cooperatives democratically empower communities to both utilize and preserve their natural resources.

On an organizational level, cooperatives can be used by governments as a form of regulation and capacity building. For instance, governments, NGOs and investors can use the already developed structure of a cooperative to reach individual farmers. Some capacity building techniques include knowledge about new inputs, harvesting techniques, literacy training, and business and marketing workshops. The ability to reach and build upon communities with intangibles is crucial in increasing output, communal income and worldwide food security.

Cooperatives are certainly drivers of sustainable development that integrate both bottom-up and top-down influencers. However, they still face challenges among some of which are poor management, lack of capital resources, inadequate training, lack of communication and participation from community members and unclear policies from the government. Nonetheless, these problems can be overcome with increased monitoring and reassessment in farming policies, increased training of cooperative members and increased development and permeation of marketing and processing techniques.

For more information:

On World Day, UN hails cooperatives as drivers of sustainable future

Role of cooperatives in agricultural development and food security in Africa

African agriculture needs young farmers and strong cooperatives

Cooperative Benefits and Limitations

Agricultural Cooperatives I: History, Theory and Problems

Tanzania: New Initiative to Help Farmers Access Markets


Thanks for sharing !


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