A country of cooperatives
Cooperatives have always been important in the Dutch agricultural sector. The Netherlands is one of the countries in Europe with the highest degree of cooperativism. Approximately 68% of agricultural products (with the exception of flowers) is retailed through cooperatives, which makes it second only to Finland (with 74%) in the whole of Europe. Ethiopia is also a highly cooperativised country. Cooperative business organisations can be found in all corners of the country. Cooperatives have the potential to play an important role in bringing about reforms and improvements in Ethiopia's agrarian economy. A lot needs to be done in order to achieve this, however. One of the major challenges involves strengthening entrepreneurship and professional business operations. And this is where Agriterra comes into play.
However, for a non-governmental organisation (NGO) to take its proper place in Ethiopia and receive the government's recognition in order to do its job, it must first be officially registered. The Ethiopian government has strict legislation in place for NGOs and wants to supervise and control what these institutions are doing in the country. This meant that Agriterra had to choose between leaving or becoming registered and opening a local office.
A Mountain of paperwork
Taking into consideration the high demand for Agriterra's services and the fact that Ethiopia is a country with about 60,000 primary cooperatives and 320 cooperative unions, Agriterra has a lot of work to do there, both now and in the future. The decision was therefore taken: Agriterra opted to become officially registered and to open an office in Addis Ababa. This meant a whole lot of paperwork, but by the end of October the process had been completed. Agriterra's official registration was marked by a festive celebration. Mr Usman Surur, the Director of the Federal Cooperative Agency (FCA, the government agency responsible for the development of the cooperative sector in Ethiopia), officially opened the gathering. FCA helped Agriterra with the registration process and is an important partner in bringing about changes in the cooperative sector.
Agriterra's official registration in Ethiopia is already bearing fruit. Various parties have now contacted Agriterra with a view to working together to access funds and write project proposals. This not only increases the chances of accessing funds, but will also enable Agriterra to gain more recognition. It also has the effect of offering security to the organisation and its staff, since it means that Agriterra Ethiopia cannot just be expelled from the country.
Everything we do is for the farmers
The founder and Managing Director of Agriterra, Dr Kees Blokland, also attended the ceremony in Addis Ababa and mentioned how happy he was with the official registration. “This is the beginning of a new phase and provides enormous motivation for Agriterra to continue doing what it has been doing: transforming cooperatives and making them more professional. And this is all for the benefit of Ethiopian farmers.”