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In the spring of 2003, FAO commissioned regional issue papers to review agricultural cooperative experiences in computerization in Asia, Africa and Latin America. This was followed by a two-day international workshop on the topic held at FAO headquarters in October 2003.

One of the main findings of the regional papers was that the level of computerization in agricultural cooperatives in developing countries was low compared to other sectors and that this was having a negative impact on cooperative business performance. One reason for this deficiency was that there was a lack of practical guidelines, specifically targeted to agricultural cooperatives that they could turn to for help.

To address this issue, one of the outputs of the workshop was the preparation of an outline for these guidelines, which has served as the main basis for the development of this manual. Many people with experience in the computer field contributed to this effort and deserve mention. This of course includes the authors of the three regional papers: Roxana Bassi on Latin America, Drew Birnbaum on Africa and M.S. Sriram on Asia. However, a special note of thanks needs to go to Roxana, since she took on the difficult task of synthesizing the findings and recommendations from the three papers and the workshop and preparing the initial draft text.

Additional and useful comments on the draft text were received from others, including: Chet Aeschliman, Drew Birnbaum, Pekka Jamsen, David Kahan, Tida Kairusmee, Wim Polman, Francisco Proenza, and Fred Snijders of the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives in Thailand and the Network for the Development of Agricultural Cooperatives in Asia (NEDAC) and to Bernard Kadasia, Regional Director of the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) Office for Eastern, Central and Southern Africa whose strong support of our computerization project in Kenya served as one of the inspirations for this initiative.

Producing an interesting and readable guidelines manual on a topic like computerization is not easy. Fortunately, we had other help from Brian Ford who prepared the humorous drawings that have made the manual more entertaining and reader friendly, from Hazel Bedford who did the final edit and from Lorella Candido who prepared the page layout and cover design.

Finally, this manual would not have been possible without the solid support provided by my Director, Maximiliano Cox and Service Chief, Jennie Dey De Pryck, both of whom strongly encouraged the activity and ensured I had the time and resources to carry it through to the end.

John Rouse
Senior Officer
Cooperatives and Rural Organizations Group
Rural Institutions and Participation Service

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