This study defines an impact pathway for the next generation of agricultural cooperatives in Africa. The pathway so far involved the organization of four research-driven platforms for strengthening the capacity of 350 leaders and managers of agricultural cooperatives in Uganda, Malawi and Madagascar, plus their international stakeholders.
These platforms were specifically conceived to promote agribusiness development, or to increase the amount of agricultural output that cooperatives are procuring from farmers and bulk-selling to buyers in value chains. In other words, our platforms aimed to counteract massive side-selling by coops’ members, which is preventing these organizations from becoming commercially viable and provide value adding services back to farmers. Training content was designed on the basis of the 'Cooperative Life Cycle Framework' developed by the University of Missouri and the 'New Generation Cooperative Principles' by the CGIAR. Based on a quasi-experimental, difference in difference design, we evaluated the output and outcome of two platforms organized in Uganda in May 2016 and July 2017.
Cognitive tests performed at the beginning and at the end of each platform suggest that participants assimilated about 45 percent of what the training content, which is not much. However, further data analysis based on Propensity Score Matching (PSM) reveals significant improvement in the commercial performance of at least 109 Ugandan cooperatives, comprising about 300,000 member-farmers. In particular, this result suggests that trained cooperatives generated significant more equity capital, in just one year time, if compared to untrained coops with similar observable (location and connectivity, organizational types and value chains) and unobservable (willingness and ability to learn) characteristics.
The study finally discusses its limitations and those of the capacity strengthening platforms organized so far, for further action and research. This finding is important for all those development organizations that are nowadays under pressure to 'show impact' and are therefore discouraged to engage in capacity strengthening projects. As well as to advance efforts to bridge agribusiness management and rural development.