Cooperatives Moving Right Along (1995)

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   This document has been made available in electronic format
           by the International Co-operative Alliance.
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   Inter-Press Service (IPS) Wire Reports on Cooperatives

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             Cooperatives moving right along
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                  Ives Marie Chanel

Port-au-Prince (IPS) - Haiti's fledgling cooperative movement is
getting a big boost from international aid agencies as part of
the overall effort to relaunch this Caribbean nation's anaemic
economy.

The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) has
earmarked 7 million U.S. dollars for cooperatives and the U.N.
Development Programme (UNDP) is in the middle of finalising an
18)month)long, one million dollar project to revitalize the
cooperative movement.

The cooperative movement, like the rest of the economy, took a
big hit during the three-year regime of Lieut. Gen. Raoul Cedras.
The economy as a whole shrank an estimated 30 percent while
unemployment or under-employment hovered around 80 percent.

Before the September 1991 coup that ousted President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the cooperative movement was a growing
and vibrant sector of Haitian economic life.

A 1990 UNDP study had identified nearly 300 cooperatives with
100,000 participants. Nearly 50 percent of those were created in
the preceding three years.

With its latest project, focused mainly on agricultural
cooperatives and savings and credit institutions, UNDP hopes to
support some 200 grassroots organizations and nearly 80,000
societies. It aims to "develop in the rural and urban
environments a wide network of local financing structures,
self-managed and sustainable."

The project will be executed by the Society of Cooperation for
International Development (SOCEDEVI) and Desjardins International
Development (DID), two Canadian groups specialised in
cooperatives. The program will be operational in five of Haiti's
nine administrative departments.

The aim of the Canadian programme is to support the revival of
the Haitian cooperative movement as an important element in
improving the economic life of cooperative members and in
defending their rights.

The CIDA project backs the revision of the legal framework and
regulatory administration of cooperatives in order to adapt them
to the real needs of grassroots groups.

It also earmarks funds for a national training programme and
provides technical and managerial assistance. Specific strategic
studies in key sectors for the development of the movement, as
well as an organisation and financial analysis, will also be
conducted.

>From April 1996, the project directors hope to elaborate on some
recommendations to modify the existing legal framework for the
cooperative sector. They also wish to identify the impact of the
cooperative sector on local economies and put management tools
and controls at the disposal of the cooperatives.

According to Durocher Jacques of Desjardins International
Development (DID), the group provides support to about ten 
cooperatives in three regions of the country.  Haiti's
cooperative movement began in 1937 in Port-a-Piment, a town in
the south of the country, with the creation of a consumption
cooperative.

In 1960, the Haitian government created a national body to
regulate the formation and the functioning of the cooperatives.
It was replaced in 1981 by the National Council of Cooperatives
(CNC), an autonomous organisation under the tutelage of the
Ministry of Planning.

The CNC was to formulate national policy towards cooperatives and
to integrate all the actions of the cooperatives in a development
plan.

A nation-wide census in 1980 identified 40 cooperatives operating
principally in the savings and credit sector and in commercial
agriculture.

A CNC spokesman said 500 cooperatives are now operating in nine
regions of the country with a strong concentration in the
southeast of the country. 

The popular bank sector is the most active. Societies count some
54,000 members in 78 savings banks around the country. According
to recent UNDP figures, the total capital invested in the
movement is some 62.5 million gourdes (1.6 million U.S. dollars).

Edouard Tardieu, considered the pioneer of the Haitian
cooperative movement, says that the movement is "the only one
which could escape the division which today cuts across the
division in Haitian society."

But, he adds, "the church is divided, and some are working to
divide the cooperative movement."

He said that the cooperative movement never benefited from the
Haitian state and the CNC was never given the means to carry out
its mandate.

Bety Desgrottes, a CNC official, says that despite problems like
a lack of education and training, the future remains promising
for the Haitian cooperative movement.  

                                           September, 1995