Cooperative assessments: the starting point for professionalizing agricultural cooperatives

10-06-2021

Philippines, June 9, 2021—In the last two decades, Agriterra has become an international leader in providing business development and advisory services to agricultural cooperatives across Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Part of this service delivery process is performing a cooperative assessment (CA) to ensure that agricultural cooperative (agri coop) clients receive targeted and appropriate capacity building interventions that will enable them to achieve their desired changes.

As implementer of the Generating Rural Opportunities by Working with Cooperatives (GROW Coop) project funded by USAID, Agriterra is applying its proven CA method to identify and address gaps in the organizational capacity of small- and medium-sized agri coops in the Philippines. This is done in partnership with large, successful cooperatives, federations, and private organizations called Local Resource Organizations (LROs) that mentor and capacitate their smaller agri coop members and partners. Ultimately, the project aims to contribute to their increased participation in agricultural value chains and to provide greater income opportunities for farmer members. Agriterra capacitated the LROs to also develop selected coops that will be engaged in their own or chosen value chains.

The Agriterra cooperative assessment

A scoping is first conducted to quickly scan and profile  an agri coop. In this stage, the scoping team composed of an Agriterra Business Advisor and GROW Coop focal persons from the LROs get to know the cooperative’s board, staff, and members and conduct a visit and/or review of documents to gather information that will support whether the cooperative  is a suitable partner for the project. The team will progress to perform the CA if the scoping yields positive results.


A cooperative assessment led by Sorosoro Ibaba Development Cooperative (SIDC) with Agriterra Philippines in Midsayap, North Cotabato.

Using the Agriterra Cooperative Assessment tool, the assessment team takes a deep dive into the cooperative by reviewing its business case, financial management, governance and member reputation. In most instances, agriculture and agro-business experts called Agripoolers (board members, managers, members or staff of cooperatives) are invited to participate in the CA and provide peer-to-peer advice.  The CA allows the LROs and Agriterra to find out the status of the cooperative and identify key areas of cooperation for its capacity building.

It is also during the CA that the cooperative is made to reflect on and define its Big, Hairy, Audacious, Goals (BHAG), which is a strategic business statement similar to a vision statement that will help the agri coop focus on a single medium to long-term organisation-wide goal.

This CA is typically carried out during a week’s visit to the agri coop and by the end of the activity, the assessment team analyzes the results and provides a report including recommendations for the cooperative. To ensure ownership of GROW Coop activities, a clear agreement through an action plan is enforced between the agri coop, LRO, other government institution partners and Agriterra on how and with what services they can support the agri coop to realize its BHAG.

Photo from: Sorosoro Ibaba Development Cooperative (SIDC)

Professionalizing agricultural cooperatives

The capacity building trajectory of GROW Coop is contributing to the professionalization of agricultural cooperatives that will enable them to grow and become more competitive and resilient. In turn, strong and professional agri coops help boost the economy, ensure food security, and improve the living and working conditions in rural communities.

For 2021, GROW Coop aims to perform at least 32 CAs on small and medium agri coops with developed action plans together with the five project LROs: AgriCOOPh Federation, Federation of People’s Sustainable Development Cooperative (FPSDC), Sorosoro Ibaba Develoment Cooperative (SIDC) and other private companies such as East West Seeds (EWS) and Citicore Candlewick Bioenergy, Inc (CCBI).

As of June 2021, 31 agri  coops were scoped while 15 of these coops have undergone CA jointly led by Agriterra and the LROs. The agri coops are from the provinces of La Union, Isabela, Cagayan, Cebu, Cagayan, North Cotabato, South Cotabao, Sultan Kudarat and Laguna. Since the COVID-19 pandemic has restricted local and international mobility, the CAs were conducted either face-to-face or online, or a combination of both.

GROW Coop Consortium Coordinator and Agriterra Business Advisor Ruth Ramirez said:

“One highlight of the Cooperative Assessment is the reception and willingness of the agri coops to cooperate and to be mentored under the project. A key lesson from the CAs is not that these small cooperatives have capacity gaps, but that despite these gaps they have achieved a lot and have managed to survive.”

After the CAs, the LROs, along with Agriterra, will roll out training, advice or exchange activities. The trainings include Governance, Financial Management, Managing My Agricultural Cooperative (MyCoop), Agricultural Cooperative Marketing, Female Leadership and Farmer Advocacy Consultation Tool (FACT). To complement its capacity building trajectory, GROW Coop is also incubating the development of the Agricultural Cooperative Development Agenda (ACDA) which aims to create an enabling business and policy environment for agri coops.
 


About Agriterra
Agriterra provides high quality, and hands-on advice, training and exchange services, to cooperatives and farmer organisations with maximum impact for socio-economically strong and productive rural areas. Agriterra draws on a century of cooperative knowledge in the Netherlands and the Dutch agri-food sector. In 2018, with 117 employees, Agriterra advises 208 cooperatives in 17 countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia.

About the GROW Coop Project
GROW Coop Project is funded by USAID and implemented by Agriterra with the goal of expanding rural livelihood opportunities and boosting rural households’ income by facilitating the development of large, successful local cooperatives, federations, and private companies to become local resource organizations (LROs). LROs provide in-depth mentoring and capacity development, for smaller agri coops so that they can participate more in agricultural value chains.

For more information about GROW Coop, email:  philippines@agriterra.org

Facebook: Agriterra Philippines | Twitter: @AgriterraPh | www.agriterra.org/philippines/

 

 


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