First results Study Tour Cooperative Entrepreneurship

09-04-2014 From the 16th to the 21st of March Agriterra received a group dignitaries from Ethiopia, among which was the minister of agriculture H.E. Tefera Derbew. Leaders from the Ethiopian agriculture world came to the Netherlands to get inspired by several Dutch cooperatives and organisations, among which were FloraHolland, Rabobank, CZAV, COSUN, Agrico, FrieslandCampina, Coforta - The Greenery, Nautilus, LTO, NCR and Wageningen UR. Another aspect of the visit was to learn our cooperative history and legislation and the extent to which our experience could be used to develop the agricultural cooperative sector in Ethiopia. Agriterra organised this visit at the request of the Federal Cooperative Agency (government institute responsibly for cooperation development) and in collaboration with SNV - the Netherlands Development Organisation.

Cooperatives can make a change
The high delegation study tour Cooperative Entrepreneurship was aimed at increasing the understanding about several cooperative topics as internal capitalization, cooperative business models, member commitment and governance. The message that cooperatives can make a change for farmers as well as on macro-economic level has landed well. For the delegates the tour was definitely an eye-opener, showing that cooperatives can grow into leading farmer-led companies mastering their respective sector, instead of being only a social institute fostering well-being in the rural areas. Ten key findings are extracted, which are currently being molded in a report. Agriterra and FCA take the lead of developing a brief report, that after approval of the delegates will get country-wide follow-up in terms of sharing the lessons learned and in the ideal case gets follow-up in national programs and policies.

Opportunities for business
The minister of Agriculture, Mr. Tefera, was keen to invite some of the visited cooperatives over to Ethiopia in order to assess if business can be done together. For example cooperatives in the area of dairy, such as Royal Friesland Campina. Dairy development is high on the list of the Ethiopian government. Also potato cooperative Agrico got an invitation to come over, whereas there are quite some potato cooperatives and growers in Ethiopia.

Lessons learned
Main issues that caught attention of the delegation are the flexibility in cooperative models and principles in the Netherlands. In Ethiopia, one size fits all. Another point which the delegation took up is that a cooperative should operate like a market oriented business, requiring professional board and staff. Agriterra will closely follow up the reflections and key findings of the delegation. Ultimate goal is to have several key lessons to be contextualized and embedded in the new cooperative proclamation.

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