From 26 to 31 March 2023, Agriterra organised an exchange visit in the Netherlands to share experiences and lessons learned from successful Dutch cooperatives for 10 participants from 7 organisations who are acting as Agricultural Cooperative Development Champions under the USAID GROW Coop project in the Philippines.
The participants came from Sorosoro Ibaba Development Cooperative (SIDC), Federation of People’s Sustainable Development Cooperative (FPSDC), Philippine Family Farmers’ Agriculture Fishery Forestry Cooperatives Federation (AgriCOOPh), Fatima Multi-Purpose Cooperative (FMPC), Labo Progressive Multi-Purpose Cooperative (LPMPC), East West Seed (EWS) and Citicore Candlewick Bioenergy, Inc. (CCBI). They were also joined by a representative from USAID Mission in the Philippines, as well as three Cooperative Advisors from Agriterra Philippines.
During the opening ceremony held at the NCR, Agriterra CEO Marco Schouten welcomed the Philippine delegation of the 7 Agricultural Cooperative Development Champions (ACDCs) and USAID to the Netherlands for the study tour. “We have been looking forward to receiving the delegates to experience the great added value of strong(er) agricultural cooperatives,” he said.
After 3 years of implementing the USAID GROW Coop project, Agriterra has shown the value of integrating training, advisory missions and knowledge exchanges in capacitating ACDCs to further strengthen their respective Growth Oriented Agricultural Cooperatives (GOACs). They have seen, first hand, how Agriterra’s 8-step result framework and thematic focus and capacity building interventions work and reach farmer members.
The Agriterra implementing team saw the importance of letting the ACDCs further learn from and be inspired by agricultural cooperatives in the Netherlands particularly in the areas of strengthening and professionalising cooperatives, improving delivery of services to members, engaging in modern value chains through specialisation and value adding activities, as well as doing lobby and advocacy.
During the week, the Philippine delegation travelled around the Netherlands to visit the following: Dutch Council for Cooperatives (NCR), The Greenery, Open Air Museum, dairy farm of a FrieslandCampina member, Royal Cosun, an arable farm of a CZAV member, The Dutch Farmer Association (LTO), World Horti Center, Royal Flora Holland, Dynaplant, and Rabobank.
Through a mixture of presentations, discussions, tours of farms and facilities, as well as reflection sessions, important insights from Dutch cooperative experiences were shared with participants and lessons learned and ideas for action were drawn.
Among the key takeaways of the participants were: 1) the importance of scale, which was achieved by Dutch cooperatives through mergers and consolidation, 2) specialisation and focus on a particular product or service, which allowed Dutch cooperatives to be highly competitive in the market, 3) importance of research and development and the use of technology and machineries in their operations, 4) flexibility governance structures which evolved in response to the needs of the cooperatives, and 5) the focus on serving the needs of the members and ensuring their control and participation in cooperative governance and business.
In the coming weeks, the participants will present their findings and recommendations to their respective management and board in order to translate knowledge into action that will lead to the further improvement and development of their organisations and businesses, as well as the smaller cooperatives they have linked with and have been capacitating through the GROW Coop project.