Cooperatives harness the power of exchange


By Jun Virola, business advisor

Agriterra has always believed in, and capitalised on peer to peer support among farmers and cooperatives. 
This happens during customised advisory missions, practical training events, as well as study visits and knowledge exchanges. 


From 29 August to 2 September, twelve cooperatives from all over the Philippines gathered in Cebu City, also known as the "Queen City of the South", to share experiences and views regarding the USAID and Agriterra GROW Coop project. These cooperatives range from micro to small, medium and big, and are covering diverse value chains like carabao dairy, coco sugar, muscovado sugar, vegetable seeds, pineapple juice and fiber, cassava for feeds, yellow corn, sweet potato, and others. 

They were joined by three Agricultural Cooperative Development Champions (ACDCs), also known as Local Resource Organisations (LROs) in USAID parlance, who provide advice, training, exchange and other services to strengthen their organisational and business performance so they can participate better in value chains. 

These ACDCs are the cooperative federations AGRICOOPH and FPSDC, as well as top seed company EWS. Other ACDCs in the GROW Coop project are primary cooperatives SIDC, Fatima MPC and Labo Progressive MPC, as well as bioenergy company CCBI, who each provide organizational, business and value chain support to around forty micro, small, medium and big agricultural cooperatives in the country. 

The target cooperatives, otherwise known as Growth Oriented Agricultural Cooperatives (GOACs), went through a marketing training at two separate venues in Cebu City and came together in the nearby rural municipality of Pinamungahan in Cebu province to learn from the growth story, best practices and business models of Lamac MPC, the biggest and most successful agricultural cooperative in the Visayas region. 

The gathering culminated in an afternoon to evening program at Lamac's hidden valley resort where the GOACs had an acquaintance dinner, enjoyed fun activities and gave feedback, suggestions and an initial rating of the GROW Coop project. 
The GOACs strongly affirmed the relevance and effectiveness of the project's capacity building interventions, using mainly Agriterra's result-based cooperative development system and tools. 
Already, notable improvements have been achieved after the advice missions, trainings and exchanges in the preceding months on key topics of cooperative management, governance, financial management, marketing, female leadership, as well as value chain specific interventions. 

The GOACs expressed their desire to continue such capacity building trajectory and for Agriterra to build on these gains and focus on more innovative solutions in the value chain in future projects, and to integrate or develop further the resilience, advocacy, digitalisation, financing, partnership, as well as youth and women aspects of cooperative development. 

Despite the negative impact of the pandemic that led to pivots and adjustments, through adaptive management in the project, the GOACs each rated their experiences a perfect 10.  
This is a nod to the GROW Coop theory of change, Agriterra's farmer focused transformation approach, and to USAID's core principles of locally led development and journey to self reliance, as vehicles toward achieving the goals of socioeconomic improvement in the lives of members and the community, as well as expanded rural opportunities in the country. 

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