Nelly Bassily | September 13, 2010
Farmers’ co-operatives can benefit members in many ways. They can improve access to resources, help members share information and knowledge, and boost social status. Co-operatives are owned and controlled by their members. They are based on shared values. Farmers are often able to achieve more working together in a co-operative than they could alone. Yet co-operatives do not always work. In some regions, the co-operative movement is strong, while in other areas it is out of favour. In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in the opportunities that working within a co-operative structure can bring for farmers. The United Nations has announced that 2012 will be the International Year of Cooperatives.
The website of the International Cooperative Alliance provides information and support to co-operatives worldwide: http://www.outofpoverty.coop/. Agricultural co-operatives have their own sub-site at http://www.agricoop.org.
A brief guide to working with co-operatives in development can be downloaded here: http://www.ilo.org/public/english/employment/ent/coop/africa/download/dfid_briefing_note_coops.pdf.
The following stories from past FRWs provide other examples of co-operatives at work[kj1] :
–“Ethiopia: Dairy co-ops turn extra milk into profit” (FRW #74, July 2009)
–“Burkina Faso: Women live better thanks to cooperative’s fair trade certification” (FRW #68, June 2009)
–“Uganda: Organic certification allows farmers to tap export market” (FRW #68, June 2009)
–“Uganda: Group marketing restores farmer profits after conflict” (FRW #48, December 2008)
–“Uganda: Women farmers drive the economy with sunflower oil” (FRW #45, November 2008)
–“Rwanda: Processing bananas changes lives in Rwanda” (FRW #41, November 2008)
–“Democratic Republic of the Congo: Women farmers process cassava to improve their livelihoods” (FRW #35, September 2008)
For Farm Radio International scripts on the subject of co-operatives, go to: http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/cooperatives.asp.
You may wish to produce a program about the work of co-operatives in your area. You could research a news feature, or invite members of one or more co-operatives into your studio for an on-air discussion. Questions to consider include:
-Who are the members of this group? Are they grouped by area, the type of crop they produce, etc.?
-When did they come together? What challenges did they hope to overcome by working as a group (for example, lack of information, marketing problems, or need for community development)?
-What steps were involved in forming a co-operative? What difficulties did they face along the way, and how were these overcome?
– How has the co-operative helped individual members (for example, by increasing yields and/or income)? Does the co-operative invest part of its profits in social or development initiatives?