The Role of Co-operatives in Agriculture
What is a Co-operative
A co- operative is an autonomous association of persons who voluntarily cooperate for their mutual, social, economic and cultural benefit. These include non- profit organizations and businesses that are owned and managed by the members.
There are seven (7) core principles that guide the operations of cooperatives:
1. Voluntary and open membership
2. Democratic member control
3. Member economic participation
4. Autonomy and independence
5. Education, training and information
6. Cooperation among cooperatives
7. Concern for community
Types of Cooperatives
Benefits of Farmer/Fisher Cooperatives
There are a number of benefits that may be derived by farmers through co-operative formation that could not be achieved individually:
· The ability to service markets that individual members could not service.
· Pooling resources in order to take advantage of economies of scale.
· The ability to lobby government for various benefits such as incentives and rebates
· Bulk purchasing of inputs which can then be sold in smaller quantities thus providing financial savings to each member
· The fostering of community spirit and participation among members
· Co-operatives can negotiate prices for members
· Members can assist each other in performing various critical task such as harvesting, grading and selling of produce
· Co-operatives can provide tractor services for their members and members of the general public , this would save time and money and provide financial boost to the organization
· Cooperatives can also own land and other infrastructure and produce crops and livestock for the market thus enhancing profits for the organization
· Co-operatives can provide training and education for members
· They can provide warehousing services for members
Good governance practices are paramount to the success of cooperatives. To this end therefore, co-operatives are managed by their members. Members elect a board of directors who are responsible for the strategic direction of the organization. These directors hire managers to run the organization. These can be members or non- members. Directors are answerable to the general body while managers are answerable to the directors.
Co-operation with Government and other entities
Co-operatives provide a medium whereby governmental and other agricultural organizations such as IICA and FAO could design programs that reach a multitude of farmers/fishers without having to deal with individual farmers/fishers. These organizations could be provided with the requisite expertise to run projects and programs on behalf of farmers. This type of arrangement saves time and resources and provide a good framework for monitoring and evaluation of initiatives by these entities.