Agricultural organizations converged at the Civil Society Plasa of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) last May 4, 2018 to discuss current projects, initiatives, and developments among agricultural cooperatives and how they are strongly positioned as a catalyst and driver of poverty reduction in Asia and the Pacific.
Impact of agricultural cooperatives
The diverse set of topics focused on poverty reduction and cooperatives, integration of smallholder farmers in the value chain, utilization of the cooperative model in agricultural operations, business capacity development, corporate engagements, and identifying the tipping point in terms of working together and sharing best experiences.
In the Philippines, for instance, Rico Geron from the Agricultural Sector Alliance of the Philippines shares that cooperatives like the Sorosoro Ibaba Development Cooperative (SIDC) was able to contribute P4 billion revenue to the local economy, as well as produce 2.5 million feeds, 33,000 bags of rice, and providing financing of over P465 million.
Other initiatives, like the Asian Farmers’ Association (AFA), aim to put up 1,000 other cooperatives like SIDC in Asia with the support of various financial institutions and organizations. One of their main agenda is to build and strengthen farmers, particularly in terms of adopting the cooperative model and integrating smallholder farmers into the value chain.
According to ADB Special Senior Advisor to the President Xianbin Yao, the support infrastructure among agricultural cooperatives is not about the government providing a lot of funding. “The tipping point from a lot of resources we see–and this is something we learned from the microfinance story–is working together within successful experiences, and carrying that awareness,” he adds.
Issues raised, a look in the future
Agricultural cooperatives prove to be promising. However, issues were also raised by participants of the session such as the current state of women and gender in cooperatives, as well as the role of agricultural cooperatives in ending landlessness and hunger.
Paez explains that in the Philippines, “the strength of cooperatives is anchored among women.” He adds that membership came from women, and that they are participative in the projects and initiatives of these cooperatives. Moreover, in the AFA, Paez shares that they have gradually began reengineering its organizational structure to become more inclusive for women and even the youth.
On the other hand, in terms of land reforms and where agricultural cooperatives come in, Agriterra Managing Director Cornelis Blokland explains that many people in such areas are unemployed, according to banks. “They have some land they got to hold. We call them farmers, but this is not true. Many of them are simply waiting for opportunities,” he adds.
International Fund for Agricultural Development Program Officer Sarah Hessel looks forward to the future of cooperatives. While it is an interesting model among millennials due to its inherently social and impactful aspect, it is also important to look into whether the model still applies to present times or if it needs to be adjusted in the future.