Seminar

Nicola Francesconi: Action Research for a New Generation of Cooperatives in Africa

Over the last decade agricultural development programs in Africa have shifted their focus from local farmers' communities to global value chains. The literature indicate that participatory approaches for identifying and addressing the needs of rural communities have improved farm-households' resilience, but have generated negligible business, employment and economic growth.

Organisator Section Economics
Datum

do 2 februari 2017 12:15 tot 13:30

Zaal/kamer C81

Over the last decade agricultural development programs in Africa have shifted their focus from local farmers' communities to global value chains. The literature indicate that participatory approaches for identifying and addressing the needs of rural communities have improved farm-households' resilience, but have generated negligible business, employment and economic growth. Community development programs have produced agricultural cooperatives based on kinship, which have too often promoted "elite-capture" and "dependency-syndromes" to the detriment of competitiveness and entrepreneurship. Community development programs failed to develop cooperative agribusiness because they focused on the needs of local farmers, which are inherently different from those of global and urban consumers. These shortfalls have thus justified and motivated the rise of antithetical programs for value chain integration, which typically start from the needs and requirements of multinational supermarkets, industries and traders, in order to promote and facilitate their procurement from rural communities.

Instead of developing community-based organizations and then expect them to evolve into vertically integrated enterprises, development programs are increasingly geared to start-up value chain enterprises directly procuring from rural communities. Enterprise development efforts aims at filling the persisting gap between local communities and global corporations, to promote and facilitate value chain integration. In particular, value chain enterprises are typically started up by governments and donors to provide business development services (BDSs) to rural communities. As value chain programs come to an end, the ownership and control of value adding BDSs can be either privatized or devolved to the rural communities using those services.

This study provides evidence in support of the devolution of BDSs to rural communities, as this process tend to give rise to a new generation of cooperative enterprises fostering rural employment and professionalization, especially among youth and women, as well as farm-households' commercialization. The research question - are new generation cooperatives more likely to succeed in generating agribusiness and rural employment than traditional, community-based cooperatives? - as well as the data used to answer it, originate from three knowledge platforms organized by the author in Uganda, Malawi and Madagascar between May 2016 and May 2017. These platforms allowed to gather and survey the leaders and managers of 300 agri-coops, provide them with research-based training on cooperative business models, and engage them in strategic discussions with private investors, donors and government agencies. These platforms were specifically designed to improve data quality (as compared to field surveys), the relevance of the analysis (to understand and confront real world challenges) and respondents' benefits (through training and networking).