SACAU Capacity Development Advisor, Benito Eliasi, with farmers from Madagascar who are ready to start a cooperative
The cooperative movement in Bongolava, one of the major maize- producing provinces in Madagascar, is taking root thanks to the Support to Farmers’ Organization in Africa Programme (SFOAP) being rolled out with support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The programme has enabled farmers to get training in the basic principles of cooperatives as well as assisting them to officially register their cooperatives with the authorities.
So far, four cooperatives are in operation and four more are in the process of being created. These cooperatives are organised within the jurisdiction of a commune.
During the recent visit by the SACAU Capacity Development Advisor, Mr Benito Eliasi, it was confirmed that smallholder farmers in the area are gradually becoming aware of the importance and benefits accrued through working together in cooperatives. Due to the success of the first four cooperatives that were established in the past three years, more and more farmers in the area want to belong to organised farming structures.
Through discussions with farmers and officials on the ground, Mr Eliasi noted that farmers who are members of cooperatives have increased their productivity of maize from an average of 0.6 tonnes per hectare to an average of 1.2 tonnes per hectare. This increase is due to the technical training provided to members of the cooperatives by service providers as well as the improved seed members are provided with.
“The cooperative has helped me and my colleagues to link with the company that hires tractors, and for the past two years I was able to hire a tractor to plough my land. I am also able to use improved seed and fertiliser acquired through the cooperative,” said Ms Nerina, a member of Kadimundi Cooperative.
Worth noting are the steps the cooperatives are taking to be more independent. Two of the four old cooperatives have acquired land to build their offices and storage facilities. The increase in productivity of maize has resulted in high demand for storage facilities.
They have also devised a savings and credit scheme among members, who have created a village bank that enables members to make monthly contributions and access the funds as a loan during times of need at an interest rate of 2%. The scheme is also making members more financially independent.
Coalition Paysanne de Madagascar (CPM) SFOAP project coordinator Mr Navalona Francioli Andrianjanahary emphasised that the project’s main purpose in the area is to offer training and skills to farmers so that through organised agriculture they are able to profit from their farming. “We have seen that the more we organise farmers, the more the partners are willing to work with them. For instance, farmers in this region are now linked up with agricultural equipment suppliers who are able to supply their services to farmers,” said Mr Andrianjanahary.
He, however, identified a number of challenges that included the misunderstanding by farmers on how cooperatives work. “Most farmers will register as a member of a cooperative thinking that they are going to receive aid or gifts, and once they realise that the cooperative is not meeting their expectations, they quit,” said Mr Andrianjanahary.
“We are however not worried when people leave because we know that those who remain are serious members and it is much easier to work with serious members in this endeavour,” continued Mr Andrianjanahary.
The other challenge he mentioned was the issue of insecurity in the region which caused farmers to be reticent about investing in any economic activity, including farming. All in all, though, the future looks good for cooperatives in the Bongolava area in Madagascar.