The cooperative village: from utopia to reality


Read the blog of Aucke Plantinga, business advisor Ethiopia, who visited a special community with cooperative principles. 

"Last week my Agriterra colleague Hikma Sultan and I did a Cooperative Assessment for Merkeb Union under the BRIDGE project of SNV in Ethiopia. During the assessment I had the opportunity to meet one of the most special communities I have ever visited.

As part of the assessment we visited a primary cooperative called Awra Amba PC, which was a member of Merkeb union. This PC was established in a village which is unique in Ethiopia. Before going I was told that “the village is very strange, the men cook, and the women plough the land, and they have no religion”. Safe to say that I was quite curious to see this village in person.

When we arrived and started our interview with the staff and board of the primary cooperative, I found out that the community has two main principles: be kind to others and work hard. As a consequence everyone was treated equal, if a person is suited for a job they can take it, their age and gender is irrelevant.

Members of the cooperative were assigned tasks based on their skillset. We saw this first-hand when we talked to the manager of the oil processing factory (a young man) and the manager of the communal dairy cows (a young woman). Both worked without pay and received dividends as payment.


During the interview we also learned that this PC single-handedly reinvented the term “multi-purpose”, almost every aspect of the village was handled through the cooperative. Some seemed fairly standard such as oil processing, dairy farming and crop production. However, the village shop, weavery, restaurant and bakery were all operated through the cooperative as well.

Everywhere in the village we saw evidence that the model worked, communal buildings were well maintained, clean and had access to electricity. And several years ago the cooperative decided to use around 30% of its annual dividends to build a school for the community.

All in all it was a wonderful experience to meet such a friendly community with cooperative principles in its centre."

Aucke Plantinga, business advisor Agriterra Ethiopia

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