Strong agricultural cooperatives will enhance food production, security


Experts from various disciplines have advocated the revamping of agricultural cooperatives across the country, saying a robust cooperative environment will significantly increase farmers’ access to capital, boost food production and security.

The call was made by experts from academia, industry and policy implementers – during a policy dialogue organised by Agri Terra in Accra – who argued that cooperatives are important in ensuring access to affordable circulating credit for smallholder farmers, as well as markets and technical assistance, thereby improving their productivity and livelihoods.

At the event themed ‘Acting now for food security and resilient food system’, experts agreed that by pooling resources and negotiating as a group, farmers can achieve economies of scale; thereby reducing costs, increasing efficiency and enhancing their competitiveness.

They elaborated that cooperatives also provide a platform for farmers to collectively contribute in policy formulation, ensure their voices are heard, and bargain for better farm input prices in order to increase production capacity as well as connect to markets or off-takers.

Against this backdrop, they urged government to support the development of robust farmer cooperative modules through policy and regulatory reforms, as well as financial and technical assistance.

“The only support cooperatives seem to be getting now are those coming from bilateral or international donor agencies. And because these cooperatives have no proper systems – they are not built on good governance and sustainability structures from scratch – once the support programme ends, they are back to basics,” observed Agricultural Economist and Dean-School of Agriculture, University of Ghana, Professor Irene Susana Egyir.

She said cooperatives are a critical tool for mobilising farmers into groups to work toward achieving food sustainability, and with proper systems they will not have to rely on donor or external benevolence.

She stressed that well-developed farmer cooperatives with proper structures such as governance standards, clear roles and transparent financial management systems will enhance farmers’ access to financing from banks and other financial institutions, as well as deliver many benefits including increased food production.

Dean of Student Affairs, University of Education and Chairperson of Cooperative Credit Unions (COA), Dr. Bernard B. B. Bingab, on his part charged the Ministry of Food and Agriculture to do more for farmers.

“The cooperative module is representative of the people because it brings farmers together and gives them an opportunity for their voices to be heard and their needs addressed. If we do not go back to the cooperative module that played a significant role in the past when ‘operation feed yourself’ was introduced, it will be difficult to attain food security.

“Funding remains a top impediment to the quantity and quality of food production in the country; because without financial support, access to inputs becomes a major challenge. And since enough support is not coming from government, the farmers must be well-organised in order to mobilise funds themselves,” he advocated.

Regional Manager-Agri Terra West Africa, Erwin Brouwer, explained that if Ghana and other countries in the West African sub-region want to work on food security and sustainability, then there is a need to put systems in place and bring various players in the sector’s various value chains together in order to create a synchronised ecosystem.

“Cooperatives are a good step, because we can have farmers in groups of about 1,000 who can put together a solid business plan and negotiate with the banks for funds, or raise capital themselves from buyers. Likewise, we cannot work on production and market without infrastructure – which is the road network, storage and processing facilities, and pricing models.  In attaining food security, there will always be imports; but that must be synchronised with investment in local production capacity,” he said

He reiterated the need to put deliberate measures in place to boost production and encourage more young people to venture into the sector.

Current state of cooperatives

Commenting on the current state of cooperative, Professor Egyir lamented that there is no action from the government side in mobilising and supervising the work of cooperatives, as the Department of Cooperatives under the Ministry of Agriculture has now been moved to the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations – and as such is under-resourced.

Cooperative Officer at the Department of Cooperatives, William Darlie, corroborated that the department is under-resourced. He revealed that in some areas a single officer oversees monitoring and supervision activities in as many as five municipalities or districts; and there are some farmer cooperatives that have never been visited by any representative from government due to lack of personnel.

He however expressed optimism that cooperative credit unions are setting the right path for improved governance in the space.

About Agri Terra

Agri Terra is an international not-for-profit agri-agency that works in emerging and developing economies. It was founded by Dutch farmers’ organisations and cooperatives some 25 years ago as an organisation for international peer-to-peer agricultural cooperation.

Its operations in Ghana started in 2019, and it now operates in about six countries of sub-Saharan Africa. As an international specialist in cooperative development, it works by using a three-track approach to make cooperatives bankable and create real farmer-led businesses.


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