Ethiopia: Fundamental Role of Cooperative Associations in Transforming the Agriculture Sector

Cooperative associations, as a part of goals of their establishment, facilitate exchanges of agricultural and manufacturing products and inputs among the producers and consumers. Basically, they are known for supplying agricultural products to the consumers and agricultural inputs to the members of the cooperative associations. On top of this, currently, they are engaged in installing factories which process agriculture products, supplying combiners, building ware houses and providing transport services, Usman surur, the Federal Cooperative Associations Manager said.

While he made an exclusive interview with The Ethiopian Herald recently, he said that the cooperative associations side by side with meeting various demand of the members, they play crucial role by laying fertile ground for the agricultural transformation.

Considering the fact that agricultural inputs play decisive role in raising products and productivity, the associations persistently supply fertilizers, herbs, pesticides and selected seeds to the members.

As to Usman, Ethiopia is not unique in establishing cooperative associations. It is the Americans that started forming the associations long ago but were unable to succeed until the 19th century. It has nothing to do with ideologies. They were established both in the socialist and the capitalist systems.

Initially, it was introduced to Ethiopia during the imperial reign of Emperor Hile Silasie I and though they were not at the expected level; they had been better operational during the Dergue and the EPRDF regimes. However, the later tried to abolish the associations.

But up on recognizing their economic value, it showed green light for their invigoration. Following repeated consultations with various stake holders, the associations were formally established by proclamation in 1993. Currently, the associations play irreplaceable role in agricultural development.

In order to attain their objectives, the role of the cooperative’s leadership is immense. As to Usman, role of the cooperative’s leadership can be better defined categorizing the formation of the associations in to three stages. Firstly, they formulated the associations that comprise individual members. Secondly, unions that incorporate a number of associations were formed.

It is crystal clear that Agriculture plays pivotal role in the country’s economic growth and behind the growth, there are dedicated agricultural cooperative associations. The associations supply more than 98 percent of fertilizers and selected seeds which serve as a back bone for the effectiveness of the agricultural sector.

A decade ago, selected seeds were produced in Bale and Kofele zones of Oromia State used to be sent to Mekele and Benishangul-Gumuz States. But currently, the situation is changed and by now standardized selected seeds are being produced by cooperative associations in various parts of the country.

The coverage of selected seeds has risen to 40 percent all over the country and out of it, 32 percent is reproduced by cooperative associations.

Reproducing selected seeds in the nearby areas of farmers is essential because when ever it is imported or produced in far places, the cost will be high and this again makes the price unaffordable to the farmers. Hence, supplying inputs in shortest distance and fair price accelerates the sector’s growth.

When compared to the previous time, the associations are at better situation in terms of leadership, capital, number of members and the quality of service they provide to the members and customers as well.

But as to Usman, in some parts of the country some cooperatives have limitations in progressive leadership since the demands of the members are not static. Based on increment of their income they make change on their daily livelihoods and coupled with this, their demands increase. Hence, to satisfy their ever growing needs, providing effective leadership is essential and to this end, equipping the leaders with upgraded knowledge is vital.

In this regard, the role of the members is irreplaceable because it is the members that well aware of the internal strength and weakness of the cooperatives and have legitimate concern for the betterment of their future.

As mentioned above, they engaged in various development endeavors which need knowledge and research as inputs.

Therefore, at the national level cooperatives are categorized based on the level of their strength and weakness so that providing capacity building could be possible accordingly.

Prior to any thing, reproducing selected seed needs knowledge that should be followed by trained skills for the effective and efficient process. In some zones the unwanted political intervention from above is witnessed which has its own repercussion on the association’s development endeavor.

Some officials order some associations to appoint their clique in higher position to advance their clandestine interest. Hence, to avoid such intervention the leaders must develop their own confidence to say ‘No’. But most of the time, some incapable leaders show submissiveness instead of resisting such maladministration which again harms the associations.

Some associations are better than others in terms of capital and installing factories. They provide transport services, establish mill and edible oil factories and forage processing factories but the capacity of their leadership does not go along with the development. Hence, capacitating them with sufficient knowledge is essential.

The government pursue agribusiness model to transform the sector. Organizing small scale farms in the form of cluster has brought better out come and enabled to raise production per hectare. In the past, farmers were engaged in their small plots of land separately and even though they devote their labor and time exhaustively, their out-put was insignificant. But now, instead of wasting their energy and inputs separately, they combined together and achieved better success than the previous time.