RE: Supporting smallhoder agriculture: what are your experiences in using evaluation? | Eval Forward

Hi Richard,

I wish to share with you reactions from my colleague project staff, pertaining to your observations and comments on the Farmer Cooperatives which were supported by our project in The Gambia. It reads as follows:

Dear Paul

Thanks for sharing.

Very interesting reading and insights on cooperatives from a competitive business model standpoint. The writer has made some assertions to be true, based on the historic characteristics of cooperatives. However, I feel he/she is using a 'one size fits all' assumption and not seeing the innovative approach that can be adopted in enabling rural cooperatives and producer organisations to thrive as sustainable business enterprises. In the past cooperatives had a negative connotation because they were initiated and managed by the state. Producers were forced to become members and were obliged to sell their products through the cooperative marketing organisation.  In many countries, these organisations were used by the elite as vehicles for individual or partisan political enterprises. The state domination, low efficiency and even fraud that accompanied many of these organisations has led to a deep distrust among producers of any collective organisation. To reduce some of this distrust, the word ‘cooperative’ is no longer used in some countries, even as collective organisations are now reappearing. Governments had tended to address some of these problems by temporarily assigning trained officers to help manage the cooperative business, but this approach hasn't worked very well. It has only created more cooperative dependency on outside support, and I guess this is were the writer's argument is focusing on. However, rural cooperatives and producer organizations do not only play a crucial role in the eradication of hunger and poverty, in the promotion of social harmony and in the achievement of more equitable economic growth, but also view their activities as a competitive business model that will uplift them from poverty and not necessarily sink them deeper as he/she asserts.  The key elements of our strategy therefore as a Government project includes promoting rural producer organisations (POs) and developing their entrepreneurial capacities to help them become more profitable. The bottlenecks (administrative costs) that the writer points out is worth noting, but in our present context, especially within the Nema cooperatives, these are not so huge that they will be consumed by the overall financial benefits. This is why the entrepreneurial skill and business development training is crucial - something that was missing before. Nonetheless, the detailed cost benefit analysis will still be useful as a guide to evaluate the business success within cooperatives.


Just my pennies summary!