As part of an MoU between Myanmar and the Netherlands to join forces on cooperative development, Agriterra started its operations in Myanmar in March 2017. Since that moment, Agriterra has focused on the identification of the key needs of ambitious and entrepreneurial farmer groups, farmer organizations and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation and other stakeholders.
Based on these insights, tailor-made training and advisory services are developed and exchanges can be organised. To identify potential clients in the Central Dry Zone, Agriterra undertook a scoping mission in September 2017. In this scoping trip, Agriterra identified potential farmer organizations through its own network and with the help of various stakeholders. This scoping identified that there are few bottom-up organised business driven farmer groups active in the Central Dry Zone. In general Agriterra often finds dependent farmer groups that are formed with outside support. This can be either done by NGO’s, by traders, or by processors. These groups often have limited ownership (limited membership contribution, almost never farmers invest own capital in the group) and consequently limited commitment to make the group endeavors a success. These groups are often heavily financed by donors and will have a hard time to sustain at the end of donor projects. When intending to start new groups, following general advice is provided by Agriterra. Ensure that farmers are the owners, controllers of cooperatives and that the services delivered by the cooperative are aimed at improving the position of the farmers. House rules (often called bylaws) are effective instruments to outline how members and the cooperative interact. The highest organ in any cooperative is the General Assembly. The General Assembly consists of members and gathers at least once per year to approve the activity plan of the board and to vote on important matters. Important to think of when forming a farmer group/cooperative:
Members that fail to pay membership fees, invest in the cooperative, or to supply the agreed percentage of output can be excluded from their voting rights for the next General Assembly.
The Central Cooperative Society aims to transform member societies into business driven entities that deliver economic value for their members. As a follow-up of the scoping mission, Agriterra and Central Cooperative Society will collaborate in training and advising CCS member societies on how to re-form governance structures and realize their business ambitions. Theint Yadanar Zaw, Network Officer at AgriProFocus Myanmar, joined the trip to understand the ground level conditions of young farmers in the Dry Zone.
by Bob Jan Schoot Uiterkamp, business advisor Myanmar at Agriterra