Agricultural co-operatives are empowering small-scale farmers from across Bhutan, a country of only 720,000 people with a poverty rate of 12%. Over the past few years, the government has been encouraging farmers to set up groups and co-operatives while providing them with advice and support.
The government’s aim is to help the country’s 34 registered co-ops market their products and has recently launched a co-op shop in Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. The shop has been designed to help co-operatives and farmers’ groups market their products without the interference of middlemen. If the shop succeeds, the ministry aims to replicate it in other towns.
Government officials are also working with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to address the country’s challenges and to boost agricultural co-operatives. The UN agency has already allocated $120,000 to enhance food security in Bhutan by promoting water-saving technologies, improving crop yields and forming co-operatives and farmers’ groups.
A thriving hardware co-operative in Rwanda has set out an example of sustainability for other enterprises in the country. Last month COPCOM (Cooperative de commerçants de materials de construction) officially opened its new premises, a three-storey building of 420 rooms, five conference and entertainment halls and 12 storage rooms.
COPCOM is active in hardware, including metalwork and carpentry. It was set up in 2011 and has grown from its initial 102 members to 321, including 70 women. Each member contributed Rwf 6m (approx £5,000), with the rest loaned from the Development Bank of Rwanda.
While visiting the COPCOM co-operative in April, the director general of the International Co-operative Alliance for Africa, Chiyoge Sifa, said: “The engagement confirms the co-operative spirit and shows that together we can move from the poverty to the self-reliance. When this project [is finished], start other good projects like this and you will not be only financially sustainable – you will also contribute on the economic development of your country.”
A new reform proposal threatens the existence of agricultural co-operatives in Japan – and has already been accepted by an advisory panel to the Japanese prime minister.
The Council for Regulatory Reform submitted a final report on overall regulatory reform on 13 June. Although the reference to the “abolishment of JA-Zenchu” mentioned in the initial report has been dropped in the final one, the report recommends that the organisation should be transformed into a new system.
The move has been condemned by the country’s Central Union of Agricultural Co-operatives. Vice president Mitsuo Murakami said: “In this reform proposal it is advocated that stock companies should be able to own agricultural land and that more corporations should be part of managing agricultural businesses.
“This year is designated as International Year of Family Farming, but what’s happening in Japan goes against this movement for global promotion of family farming.”
Worker co-operatives are booming in France, where more than 263 co-ops were set up in 2013, as opposed to 248 in 2012. These results are the best in six years, according to the figures from the French Confederation of Scops (La Confédération générale des Scop).
“Of these 263 new societies created, 65% were created from scratch, which shows that entrepreneurs are really adhering to this enterprise model. The crisis determined a double amount of takeovers of companies in difficulty, in comparison to 2012, amounting to 27 companies being taken over in 2013”, said Patrick Lenancker, President of the CG Scop, the Confederation of Worker Cooperatives in France.
The new co-operatives have helped create or preserve more than 10,500 jobs, with 1,859 created or saved in 2013. Moreover, in 2013 around 1,800 people created a co-operative enterprise. Of these, 30% were employees, 29% were managers and 27% were workers.
More than 500 co-operators met in Madison, Wisconsin in June for the annual conference of the Consumer Cooperatives Management Association. As well as exchanging ideas and experiences, they received training on various topics of management, business practices, engagement and collaboration. Delegates got the chance to participate in 58 concurrent breakout sessions that took part over the three-day conference.
At the event, Mike Beall, president and chief executive of the National Cooperative Business Association, facilitated a panel discussion on Principle 6 – “co-operation among co-operatives”.
He said: “CCMA is a fantastic conference that deserves to play an expanded role in the co-operative community. We take seriously the trust that has been placed in our organisation to enhance this conference and take it to the next level of greatness.”
The International Summit of Cooperatives launched a new contest to raise the profile of enterprises that showcase their co-operative or mutualist position through innovative ad campaigns and communication strategies.
Any co-operative or mutualist business can enter the TOP.coop competition in one of the three categories: advertising/marketing; interactive/new media; or mobilisation/involvement.
The contest was launched on 16 June and entries will be open until 25 July. Each entry must involve one or more campaigns or communication in one of the categories and must have been implemented between 1 January 2011 and 30 June 2014.
To enter, eligible co-operatives and mutual must register at: http://www.sommetinter.coop/cms/site/home
The winners will be announced on 9 October at the awards gala of the International Summit of Cooperatives in Quebec. More information is available at https://www.omnicontests4.com/common/fileuploads/Reglements_En_V2.pdf
In this article
- Central Union of Agricultural Co-operatives
- Confederation of Worker Cooperatives in France
- Consumer Cooperatives Management Association
- Council for Regulatory Reform
- Development Bank of Rwanda
- French Confederation of Scops
- International Co-operative Alliance for Africa
- Mike Beall
- Mitsuo Murakami
- Patrick Lenancker
- Rochdale Principles
- United Nations Development Programme
- United States
- Worker cooperative
- United States
- Top Stories