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2.1 General Considerations
2.2 Components of the Interrelationship

2.1 General Considerations

Both the state and the prevailing social, political and economic system in a country directly and indirectly form the cooperative environment and makes it more or less conducive for the development of genuine cooperatives. A cooperative can be defined as an organization that satisfies the following criteria:

“an association of persons who have voluntarily joined together to achieve a common end through the formation of a democratically controlled organization, making equitable contributions to the capital required and accepting a fair share of the risks and benefits of the undertaking in which the members actively participate”.1.
1 International Labour Organisation (1966). Recommendation No. 127. Recommendation Concerning the Role of Cooperatives in the Economic and Social Development of Developing Countries. ILO, Geneva.
The original formation of cooperatives in the North was in accordance with this definition as they emerged as a spontaneous response to felt social and economic needs, originally at the local level. In Zambia and other countries in the South, however, cooperatives of small scale farmers have been largely state sponsored and served as instruments of state policy, often with financial and technical support from external donors. This has been the case despite statements of support for independent cooperatives in the overall national policies of most countries.

One cause of this apparent contradiction between overall policy and implementation has been the perceived role of the state in Zambia and similar countries in the South. After independence the new governments, supported by the then prevailing development theory, were of the view that the state had to take the lead and be the major instrument for economic and social development.

However, given the limited resources at their disposal and the low level of social integration in the new nation states, economic development based on central planning and implementation became a virtually impossible task.

It is somewhat unclear what the specific development objectives and modalities of the state were, but there was a need to show that development was for all citizens in order to consolidate the new nations. In order to reach the dispersed rural communities the cooperatives were actively promoted as a major policy element. In serving as instruments of government development policy, cooperatives were from the outset unable to foster a sufficient degree of member participation, mutual help and a sense of ownership.2.

2 Past and Present Role, Progress and Problems of Cooperatives in Agricultural Marketing, Input Supply and Rural Credit, and Perspectives for the Future by H Holmen and P Öjermark. Report of Workshop on Peasant Agricultural Marketing in Eastern Africa. (September 1991)
The problem underlying this situation is that the state and cooperatives have partly conflicting interests and objectives. The basic contradiction is that the state prescribes and expects the cooperatives to carry out certain centrally determined activities within a certain time period. Cooperatives on the other hand must, to serve their purpose, respond to the expressed needs and serve the economic and other interests of their members/owners, rather than those of the general public or the state. Cooperatives that are not free to operate on that basis often degenerate to “pseudo-cooperatives”, i.e. cooperatives as regards their formal structure only, characterized by a low level of member participation and with limited attraction for non-members to join.

2.2 Components of the Interrelationship

Although there is often, as in the case of Zambia, an official overall government policy in support of independent cooperatives, this has not been supplemented by either guidelines or a time table for the phasing out of government control. Very little attention, whether theoretical or practical, has been given to this aspect of state cooperative relations. Both the conceptual and empirical foundations for such a process are therefore weak.

The process of phasing out the state will normally need to be supported by sufficient cooperative strength as regards social cohesion/member control and economic resources/business activities. Experience has shown that the two factors are positively correlated to each other and to the degree of cooperative independence. What needs to be considered, therefore, is what specific measures a government, committed to cooperative independence, should take in a step by step process of phasing out and thereby facilitate the emergence of strong cooperatives.3.

3 For a detailed discussion of this issue, see "Cooperatives and the State: Partners in Development?" by Alf Carlsson (Institute of International Education, Stockholm University, 1992).
The Committee for Promotion and Advancement of Co-operatives (COPAC), a grouping with representatives from various UN and non-governmental organizations with its headquarter at FAO, has recommended the following general guidelines for the promotion of independent cooperatives:
- stimulate discussion on the present situation and experience regarding cooperatives and their dependence on government;

- convince the political leaders of the need for and potentialities of the growth of a self-reliant and autonomous cooperative movement;

- encourage changes in the cooperative law or the passing of such a law, to facilitate growth of genuine cooperative self-help organizations;

- educate the membership about what is required if a “new” cooperative is to emerge and the role and influence of the government are to be reduced;

- strengthen the cooperative structure through collaboration between cooperatives to form a coherent cooperative movement to take on the responsibility of the promotional functions; and finally

- work out a policy for a gradual freeing of the cooperatives from undue tutelage and for limiting the growth of promotional bureaucracy, whether government or non-governmental.4.

4 Quoted in “Samvirke - et alternativ i Afrika” by Gunnar Roalkvam. (Det Kgl. Selskap for Norges Vel, 1993)
Each of the components of the above guidelines has been covered in the Zambian disengagement process, and other measures have also been taken. They are all addressed in this study. In discussing the emergence of independent cooperatives in Zambia the complexity of the interrelationship between the cooperative movement, the cooperative environment, and the national and international environments must also be kept in mind. In addition, the internal processes within the cooperative movement are equally important factors.

An illustrative model for these interrelationships has been developed5., and can be described as several concentric circles, starting with the cooperative organizations, and followed in turn by the cooperative context or the cooperative environment, the national environment and the international environment. The components of the model that are influencing cooperatives and state-cooperative relations are listed below, in a slightly modified form and with brief explanations as required.

5 A Carlsson, 1992, op. cit.

The Cooperative Organizations

The membership

The cooperative entities

The business enterprises - the services produced

The cooperative process - the flow of communication and activities between the three components

The Cooperative Context

Cooperative policy

Agricultural policy

Cooperative legislation

Cooperative support system - acts to promote cooperatives

Cooperative education

The National Environment

The state

Civil society - including other organizations and businesses




Socio-economic conditions - including infrastructure, literacy

Socio-political conditions - including freedom of speech and association

The International Environment

International cooperative organizations

Export and import markets

International donor policies

All of the factors listed above have had a measurable influence on the position of the cooperative movement in Zambia and on the process of its evolution towards independence. Reference is made to most of them later in this study.

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