Yes there is still a need for Cooperatives. Agricultural Cooperatives are important for development and food security especially for smallholders in rural areas. Majority of those facing hunger live in rural areas where agriculture is the mainstay. Cooperatives bring about social development, poverty alleviation, employment opportunities, income and economic growth in rural communities. Farmers that are a part of a cooperative will benefit from social protection, bargaining power, reduction of costs and sharing risks. For rural development, there should be provision of credit facilities, provision for marketing, supply of agricultural inputs, and improvement of irrigation. These factors are achieved through cooperatives, of course only cooperatives that hold their true meaning.
In addition, development problems that may arise in cooperatives can be address through Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Volume of transactions can shift from manual to automotive which will resolve issues of efficiency, accuracy and MIS. In Rwanda, the registration process was hectic for farmers. The method was long and filling out forms required knowledge which the farmers lack and computers were also inaccessible in rural areas. Rwanda Cooperative Agency implemented a model of bylaws to ease the registration process. As such, field officers could also assist farmers in filling the forms through use of portable computers.
While we agree that these traditional farmer cooperatives are necessary, it might be irrelevant in places like Uganda since a vast amount of people are connected electronically. Hence, in this case there is an ease of communication and it is less costly since there is no need for a standing institution. However, we believe that traditional meetings and discussions (where everyone is in one room) are more productive since not everyone is able to keep up with these technological changes. Then again, with the exception of places like Uganda where there can be a compromise between the two so that traditional cooperatives are not completely eliminated but are complemented by communication technology.
The FSN Forum is supported by the project Coherent food security responses: incorporating right to food into global and regional food security initiatives.