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March 2005

Announcement of a new publication

Computerizing agricultural cooperatives

A practical guide

Agricultural cooperatives in developing regions are being hit from all sides. They are receiving far less support from government than they have in the past, and with the liberalization of agricultural markets, many of them are struggling to survive in an increasingly competitive business environment. Member services are declining and farmers are leaving. The world is changing and these changes tend to favour small, decentralized organizations that are able to respond rapidly to the evershifting demands of the market.

In large measure, this transformation is being enforced by the liberalization and globalization of markets and the growing use of information and communication technologies (ICTs). If agricultural cooperatives are to survive, they must learn how to compete. One obstacle to achieving this is that information-processing in farmer cooperatives in developing countries is notoriously slow; most large cooperatives still operate with manual or semi-manual accounting systems. Such systems are labour-intensive to maintain, leave plenty of occasions for errors and create opportunities for abuse. It is difficult for managers to be competitive when they must work with outdated or inaccurate information.

The immediate advantage that computerization brings is the enhanced ability to handle large amounts of information. The introduction of modern information and communications technologies (ICTs) in cooperatives can significantly improve results: they can facilitate the collection, analysis, storage and reporting of information much faster and more accurately than could be accomplished using manual systems. Computerization also can help cooperative managers streamline operations, cut operating costs, enlarge their networks of members and affiliated institutions, increase sales and respond to signals from far away markets. Connecting to the global network of the Internet also has its advantages, allowing faster communication with members, partners and clients at a fraction of the cost.

Currently, those agricultural cooperatives considering computerization have no reference book to turn to for guidance. This manual is intended to help fill that gap and ensure that their first attempt to computerize will be a successful one. It is based on a review of computerization experiences in Asia, Africa and South America. This manual is written for developing country cooperatives that are just starting to consider whether or not or how to computerize. Its intended target audience includes managers, trainers and policy makers with little experience in working with computers.

(Also available in French and Spanish)

Click here to view the document (html format) or pdf format.

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