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Cooperatives are mechanisms for poverty reduction, job creation – Jackson

Cooperatives are mechanisms for poverty reduction, job creation – Jackson

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Cooperatives have been identified as an effective way to build public/private partnerships, particularly in the agricultural sector.{{more}}

This was disclosed at the opening ceremony of a one-day consultation for local stakeholders involved in local cooperatives.

The consultation was held as the International Year of Cooperatives comes to a close and was convened so that stakeholders can examine the future of the sector in 2013 and beyond.

Cecil Jackson, registrar of cooperatives, said that the significance of the event was so that strategic planning for the cooperative sector can be facilitated.

“We in the cooperative department are cognizant of the critical role cooperatives have to play in national development,” Jackson said.

“They are identified as critical mechanisms for poverty reduction, job creation, food security, sustainable livelihood and business development,” he added.

He identified the critical areas for the way forward for cooperatives, including focus on goals and responsibilities in the context of service and product delivery for their clients; the need for greater compliance to the new legislative framework of the Cooperative Societies Act, and the need for mergers and consolidation of the cooperative sector.

Representative of the Ministry of Agriculture Calvin King said the consultation was being held not just towards the end of the year of cooperatives, but also at the end of the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) theme that cooperatives can feed the world.

“And given these two initiatives, the question would be: can cooperatives feed our nation?” he said.

He explained that currently banana production and incomes were declining, which in turn meant that the average farmer was facing difficulties in taking care of his/her family; people directly or indirectly employed get fewer jobs; banks and credit unions issue fewer loans.

The rippling effect eventually destroys rural communities and by extension, the entire economy.

“Therefore it was imperative of all to build a more resilient, competitive agriculture sector,” King said.

And while the government continued with its thrust to save the banana industry, King said it was crucial that public/private sector partnerships be formed and cooperatives was the key to forming such partnerships.

After all cooperatives are supposed to be people-centred, scalable, business models that can be leveraged for sustainable jobs, he said.

“Well, if this is the case then we can all pack up and go home because we know what the solution is. However, it is not as simple as that. One must be mindful of the challenges and lessons which must be applied in any future cooperative initiative,” King said.

He further explained that experience has shown that cooperatives do offer pathways to reduce poverty.

King said farmers in the United States who were members of a cooperative earned as much as US$5,500 more than farmers who were not.

For this reason, the Ministry of Agriculture has challenged the cooperative division to focus on building cooperatives in communities throughout the country.

They were often difficult to start, as farmers may opt to do it on their own.

But King warned against the practice, saying that those choosing to do this may find themselves in a position where they are not able to compete with global giants. (DD)

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