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The ICA and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) Government of Japan, Tokyo are implementing the “Capacity Building Project for Farmers’ Organizations to Support the Development of Food Value Chain in Asia and Africa in FY-2020” from 1st April 2020 to 31st March 2021.

 

Updates from the Training Programme

 

As part of it, the training course on "Strengthening Management and Development of Agricultural Cooperatives and Farmers’ Organizations in Asia and Africa-2020” was organized online by ICA-AP in February and March 2021. It aimed to build capacities of leaders of the farmers’ organizations like agricultural cooperatives, who are expected to play central roles in the promotion of agricultural cooperatives and the strengthening of organization and business management. This, in turn, enhances the competitiveness of agricultural products and income leading to the sustainable development of agricultural production.

 

The training was conducted by the ICA-AP in collaboration with the Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA), India and the Institute for the Development of Agricultural Cooperation in Asia (IDACA), Japan. The first part of the two-part training was held from 11th February to 02nd March. It was inaugurated by Mr. Balasubramanian Iyer, Regional Director, ICA-AP who was joined by Mr. Ikko Watanabe, First Secretary, Embassy of Japan in India, Mr Hirofumi Kobayashi, Executive Director, IDACA, Mr. S.N. Biswas, Director of IRMA, Prof. Hitesh Bhatt, former Director of IRMA, Prof. Sudhir Sinha, MDP Chair, IRMA, Prof. Nakul Parameswar, Coordinator from IRMA and Mr A.K. Taneja, Project Coordinator, ICA-AP in the opening ceremony. There were 15 participants from Bhutan, Cambodia, Lao PDR, India, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nepal, Rwanda, Tunisia, and Vietnam. They attended technical sessions and learnt the experience of agricultural & dairy cooperatives in India. 

 

The Part-II of the training was inaugurated on 11th March by Mr. Hirofumi Kobayashi, Executive Director, IDACA. He was joined by Mr. Taneja, concerned IDACA staff members, Mr. Usui Takeshi, Programme Coordinator for this part from IDACA and all the participants. The participants learned about the experience of agricultural cooperatives in Japan.

 

The training programme concluded with a closing ceremony held online on 30th March. The speakers - Mr. Kondo Takayoshi, Deputy Director of Emerging Economies Group, Bilateral Affairs Division, MAFF, Mr. Iyer, and Mr. Kobayashi addressed the participants.  Mr. Baba Toshihiko, Sr. Executive Director, JA-Zenchu, shared his address through a pre-recorded video. Ms. Chabbah Hajer, a participant from Tunisia, presented the vote of thanks.  Participation certificates were also distributed online by the Executive Director of IDACA to each participant. 

 

Follow-up with Nepal and Bhutan

 

As part of the project, ICA-AP and IDACA, Japan conducted two follow-up assessments of actions plans implemented by the training participants. The first involves a questionnaire for participants and the second a follow-up visit. The questionnaire was sent to 66 participants from 25 countries in Asia (14) and Africa (10). The two countries chosen for follow-up visit were Bhutan and Nepal. Unfortunately, because of the COVID-19 imposed restrictions, the team was unable to travel and have in-person discussions and site visits. As with the training course, the follow-up process was moved online.

 

The follow-up for Bhutan and Nepal consisted of an assessment of the completed questionnaire and an online meeting. The online meeting included a video presentation by the host organization, a PowerPoint presentation of the Action Plan by participants, and a discussion with ICA and IDACA staff.

 

 

The online meeting with Bhutan included a video presentation of the cooperative sector. 51.1% of the population (total 0.76 million) is engaged in farming. Renewable and Natural Resources contributes to 17% of GDP, making it a driving sector of the GDP. Farmer Groups (FGs) and cooperatives are not alien to Bhutan as working together (religious and social) has been a part of the social fabric. The Department of Agricultural Marketing and Cooperatives (DAMC) within the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests plays a key role in developing, coordinating and promoting cooperatives. Starting with 18 FGs and 5 cooperatives in 2010, there are now 611 registered FGs and 94 cooperatives.

 

 

The Co-operatives (Amendment) Act of Bhutan (2009) facilitates the development of cooperatives as a sustainable pillar of growth within the private sector. It directs the Royal Government of Bhutan to promote cooperatives for the well-being of members and communities. The Act provides for five types of cooperatives i.e., farmers’ group, primary cooperatives, federation of cooperatives, union of cooperatives and special types of cooperatives. The legal environment of Bhutan is quite “cooperative friendly” as it provides a conducive environment to people to form cooperatives and work towards the realization of their common aspiration to become economically self-reliant.

 

Ms. Sonam Lhaki Zam and Ms. Tshering Wangmo presented the action plan implementation. Both were part of the training course ‘Fostering Leaders for Management and Development of Agricultural Cooperatives in Asia’ in FY-2018 and FY-2019 respectively.

 

Ms. Zam’s action plan was to ‘Promote and strengthen additional saving and credit cooperatives in Western Bhutan’. This was to be done by sensitizing farmers on the importance and benefits of saving and credit (increase income and uplift socio-economic status) and to promote and strengthen cooperatives by building their capacity to carry out saving and credit functions. 11 savings and credit groups were formed and registered in Western Bhutan from 2019 to date. The groups were provided training on saving in groups and maintaining a good book of accounts. Through group savings the members can take care of their immediate needs (children’s education, illness and death); access credit services; use groups savings for recreational activities; and procure farming equipment/machines for the groups. Ms. Sonam was able to share her experience with colleagues, relate ideas and information to FGs/Coops in Bhutan (packaging/grading/marketing strategies), and share success stories of credit cooperatives in Thailand and Japan.

 

 

Ms. Wangmo’s action plan was to ‘Introduce the system of increasing share capital among the members of cooperatives in Bhutan to ensure sound management of share capital; improve accounting system in cooperatives and improve governance’.  Ms. Wangmo has updated the information in the modules and associated awareness presentations relating to group formation and mobilization, bookkeeping, good governance and leadership. The DAMC is collaborating with the Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan towards developing guidelines for savings and credit in cooperatives and farmer groups. Due to the covid-19 pandemic planned activities have not taken place. So far, an awareness programme and three days of training on bookkeeping have been conducted.

 

 

The Constitution of Nepal (2015) recognizes cooperatives as an important base of the national economy. It stipulates that the economic objective of the state shall be to achieve sustainable economic development, while achieving rapid economic growth, by way of maximum mobilization of the available means and resources through participation and development of public, private and cooperatives. Cooperatives are present across diverse sectors including agricultural, financial and savings, consumer, multipurpose, electricity and health, among others. The Cooperative Act (2017) is a general law for all types of mutual cooperatives. The cooperative movement is focused on poverty alleviation while promoting women’s participation in cooperatives in membership and leadership roles.  As of 2019, ICA members represented 34,837 cooperatives in Nepal with 6.5 million members and 68,400 employees. The current covid-19 pandemic has reduced the migration of youth to foreign countries and the lack of jobs in urban centres has forced them to go back to their villages. This has increased the interest in agricultural cooperatives.

 

 

Ms. Kalpana Shreshta, Mr. Prem Prasad Jaisi and Mr. Suresh Thapa presented the status of their action plan implementation. Prem Prasad and Suresh Thapa were part of ‘Fostering Leaders for Management and Development of Agricultural Cooperatives in Asia’ in FY-2018 and FY-2019 respectively, while Kalpana Shreshta was part of the ‘Empowering Women in Business and Management of Agricultural Coops’ in FY 2019.

 

 

Ms. Shreshta’s action plan was to ‘Create a Direct Market Platform of Agricultural Products’ which would help increase profit from direct sales and promote the growth of local speciality products. Her action plan has been put in place and during the current covid times, the emphasis has been on door-to-door delivery.

 

Mr. Jaisi’s action plan was on ‘Market intervention to ensure farmers are connected directly to markets.’ His plan was implemented in the Banke area where he formed a farmers group, engage the local government to provide funds, and put in place collective contracts. Along with regular farming, the interventions took place in dairy and riverbed farming. At the policy level, efforts are underway to reduce the fragmentation of land.

 

Mr. Thapa’s action plan was on ‘Revitalization of coop dairy business in Panauti municipality for the supply chain management.’ The plan is to set up five dairy cooperatives with around 150 direct participants and 500 members being benefited. Right when the implementation was to start, the pandemic hit, delaying the start. However, Mr. Thapa has been in touch online with members, local government, and stakeholders to keep the conversation going.

 

Presentations on Best Practices

 

A new intervention this time was the presentation of best practices. From among the filled-up questionnaires, the team from ICA-AP and IDACA identified three best practices from each of the training programmes: 1) Fostering Leaders, 2) Food Value Chain and 3) Women leaders.

 

On 13th April, the discussion was with three participants from Ghana, Morocco, and Kyrgyzstan who attended the ‘Fostering Leaders for Management and Development of Agricultural Cooperatives’ course. 14th April was devoted to three participants from Indonesia, Myanmar, and Vietnam who attended the ‘Empowering Women in Business and Management of Agricultural Cooperatives’ course. On 15th April, three participants from India and the Philippines, who attended ‘Fostering Coordinators to Build Food Value Chain’ in FY-2019 and ‘Strengthening of Marketing through Improvement of Quality Produce and Expansion of Marketing Channels’ in FY2020.  

 

The online discussion involved the presentation of best practices and sharing opinion on the training course by member organizations.