Coalition Paysanne de Madagascar (CPM) facilitates the establishment of cooperatives in Madagascar

MadagascarSACAU 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.

Madagascan farmers reap rewards of cooperatives

SACAU, through the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) funded Support to Farmers’ Organizations in Africa Program (SFOAP), is providing assistance to farmers in the Bungolava region of Madagascar to get organised into cooperatives. The program which is in its third year is being implemented in collaboration with the Coalition Paysanne de Madagascar (CPM).  SACAU’s Capacity Development Officer, Mr Benito Eliasi visited Madagascar and interacted with some members of the newly established cooperatives in September.

Progress is impressive considering the increased levels of understanding on how cooperatives operate by farmers in the region. “One can observe that farmers have increased their understanding on the basic principles of cooperatives as to where it was three years ago when the project was initiated” said Mr Eliasi.  It is pleasing to note that; farmers in the region have now bought the idea of working in cooperatives and are able to appreciate the changes cooperatives have made in their productivity and profitability as farmers. One farmer mentioned that he was able to produce three tons of maize in one hectare through the support and services he has received from his local cooperative.

Prior to 2014, farmers in this region worked individually and were experiencing difficulties in accessing inputs for maize production as well as better markets for their produce.  Now through working in cooperatives, these services are relatively easily accessible. Farmers are now able to aggregate produce and negotiate for better prices. In addition, farmers are able to participate in the setting of minimum maize prices through the “Regional Maize Producers Platform” of which they are members. The platform is also responsible for allocating markets for different maize buyers. Ms Vonimanitra Maxima, CPM Projects Officer, indicated that for this year; farmers are expected to supply maize to a Mauritian animal feed manufacturing company. This is the first time farmers will be selling their produce to such a big buyer.

One of the female farmers who is the treasurer of TAMBATRA Cooperative told Mr Eliasi that she is now able to comfortably pay school fees for her children as well as buy basics for her household which was difficult before the project.

Through cooperatives, farmers are also learning modern practices of cultivating maize and they are using improved seed varieties. Through collaboration with a number of stakeholders in the region farmers are able to get advice on the production of maize and the project has also linked them to input suppliers.

For a country like Madagascar where the majority of farmers are subsistence, the support to facilitate organising farmers into structures such as cooperatives has the potential of increasing productivity and profitability of farming. It is anticipated that the experiences gained under this  project will be scaled-up in other areas in the country.