Collaborative Strategies for the Development of Agricultural Co-operatives (1997)

This document has been made available in electronic format
by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA)
Oct, 1997
(Source: Co-op Dialogue, Vol.7, No.2, May-Aug. 1997, pp. 31-32)

Collaborative Strategies for the Development of Agricultural 
Co-operatives in Asia-Pacific and Strengthening Management
of Agricultural Co-ops in Asia

A Report on the Top Leaders' Conference sponsored by ICA/JA-Zenchu/IDACA in Tokyo, Japan from April 14 to 19, 1997 and on
the 11th Course Edited and compiled by Dr. Daman Prakash,
Project Director

The agricultural co-operative sector plays a major role in the economy
of Asia-Pacific, affecting food supply, providing labour for many
farmers and field workers, and interacting with businesses and
governments.  From small primaries to large national federations,
agriculture co-operatives are important business. 

The role of managers in agricultural co-ops is pivotal to business
development and communication with members.  For the past 11
years, the International Co-operative Alliance, JA-Zenchu (Central
Union of Agricultural Co-operatives of Japan) and the Institute for
the Development of Agricultural Co-operation in Asia-Japan have
partnered to offer skills training to enhance management efficiency.

A Top Leaders' Conference on Collaborative Strategies for the
Development of Agricultural Co-operatives in Asia-Pacific held in
Tokyo April 14 to 19, 1997 was attended by seven leaders of ICA
member organisations in China, Indonesia, Korea, the Philippines,
Thailand, and Vietnam.  The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and
Fisheries of the Government of Japan and the Japan International
Co-operation Agency, and 15 participants in the 11th ICA-Japan
Training Course of Strengthening Management of Agricultural
Co-operatives in Asia representing ten countries also took part.

Participants in the six-month regional course examined a variety of
development models to help them evaluate and improve their own
situations.  The goal of the training was, "to help strengthen and
improve agricultural co-operative performance in the Asian Region
in order to bring about qualitative and quantitative improvement in
co-operative services to member-farmers at the grass-roots level with
the ultimate objective of increasing member's income and ensuring
their active participation in business."

Along with class and field work, trainees also developed 148
development project proposals dealing with fruit and vegetable
cold storage, dairy co-operatives, livestock development, and paddy
processing in accordance with the priorities of their sponsoring
organisations.  Several of these proposals were accepted and the
regional project has been rated very successful by the user-
organisations. Following-up the training course, the conference
evaluated  regional training project proposals , and highlighted
problem areas for the development of agriculture co-operatives
in the region.  

Organisational support is needed to implement these proposals.
So, an evaluation session was held with top leaders of the
sponsoring organisations.  The conference objectives were:

-	to review project proposals
-	to discuss strategies for development of agriculture co-ops
-	to exchange views with Japanese government development
	agencies, JA-Zenchu, IDACA and the ICA about the relevance
	and continuation of assistance.

Delegates presented background papers on their respective countries
outlining project proposals that have been accepted or implemented,
implementation problems, success stories, the organisation's view on
the relevance of the program and suggestions for improvement, past
participants who have since left the organisation, and a review of
agriculture co-ops and agro-processing in the country.

ICA ROAP and IDACA submitted several papers for consideration,

-	process evaluation and monitoring of project proposals
-	securing organisational commitment
-	process and review of training and development programmes

The conference was successful for several reasons:

-	user-organisations were well-represented
-	regional project proposals were evaluated by senior managers
-	senior managers, co-op and government officials interacted
	with trainees
-	beneficiary organisation were encouraged to make good use of
	their trained staff and to sponsor the most suitable candidates
	for training

Several key points were noted:

1.	User-organisations find the regional project to be valuable, useful
	and professional.

2.	Value-added is underlined through the project, keeping in mind
	the interests of grassroots members.

3.	Open market economy makes management training more
	important than ever before.

4.	Special attention is paid to Korea's livestock and dairy co-operatives,
	supporting development in other countries, and NACF training is
	strengthened on the theme of self-sufficiency and food security,
	and broadening its economic business.

5.	Dairy co-operatives in Indonesia have benefited by improving product
	and joint-processing.

6.	ICA and IDACA have reached a large number of managers in the
	region by making the program broad-based and results-oriented.

7.	More training and development opportunities are created through 	additional funding from MAFF and other sources for projects aimed
	at enhancing use of local raw materials, making agriculture 	environmentally friendly, boosting agribusiness, strengthening food
	security, and involving women and youth in co-operatives.

8.	Field studies and follow-up of the recommendations of the ICA
	Co-operative Ministers' Conference create interest in application
	of agribusiness development strategies.

Agricultural co-operatives are the most sophisticated, high tech managed
institutions in Japan;  they produce and market products while looking
after member interests.  Much can be learned from the Japanese experience
and its innovations (i.e. amalgamation, insurance and health-care provision,
improved quality and marketing, solid government relations, education and
training, high return for members, encouraging participation of women and
youth, protecting the environment, and joint strategies).

Discussion at the conference urged sponsoring organisations to encourage
their participants to develop project proposals in line with their priorities
so that they might be more successfully implemented.

Several important recommendations resulted from the Top Leaders
Conference on Collaborative Strategies for the Development of
Agricultural Co-operatives in Asia-Pacific:

-	recognise ICA, MAFF, JA-Zenchu and IDACA for implementing
	the training project

-	acknowledge the need for food security, safe and healthy farm 	products in light of a growing population and encouraged the
	program to be results-oriented

-	extend appreciation to MAFF for funding the most relevant, logical 	and useful training for managers of agricultural co-operatives in Asia

-	request ICA ROAP and IDACA to persuade MAFF to continue
	funding and increase the number of participants and financial support

-	persuade MAFF and other funding agencies to establish national level
	training and development

-	identify critical needs and follow-up recommendations of the 4th ICA
	Co-operative Ministers Conference held in Thailand, March 1997

-	encourage sponsoring organisations to send the most suitable trainees

-	solicit advice and comments from sponsoring organisations on project

-	mobilise financial resources at the local level to hold national level
	training programmes