The Ethiopian Cooperative development Strategy 2012-2016 MY EXPERIENCES AND WORRIES


The Ethiopian Cooperative development Strategy 2012-2016

Berhanu Tesfaye (

Back ground
Ethiopia is one of the countries where most of the population engaged in agricultural production. Unfortunately it is also a country that could not feed its people due to different political, economic as well social problems. Ethiopian governments at times try to solve the problem of food self insufficiency by designing different policies and strategies but due to failures in problem identification to design strategies the Ethiopians depend on food aids from donors. This situation is not changed for the last 40 years even though different strategies were launched. Now days about 7 million people are chronic food deficits and need donors good will to pass the lean seasons.

As a solution and to contribute to more production and make self sufficiency new strategies are put since 1995 like PADETS, SDPRP, PASPAD and as part of the GTP I came over a document about Cooperative development strategy for the period 2012-2016 that was published June 2012.

The purpose of this article is to discuss the nature of the strategic paper and insight some fall outs so that experts in the field could bring their experiences for the realization of the plan.

Since all development are reflection of the political machinery in most of the developing countries I request my readers to take into consideration some details in my narrations could be some critics on those who were/are running the country.

The vision of the strategy as indicated on the paper is“ Vision: To contribute to Ethiopia’s overall vision of achieving middle income status by 2025 through increased smallholder farmers’ productivity and income by leveraging the activities of agricultural cooperatives.

Mission: A well-functioning agricultural cooperative sector that helps many smallholder farmers increase their yields and incomes through a) autonomous and efficient cooperatives at all tiers that provide effective and sustainable services to members, and b) a robust enabling environment of policy and regulatory oversight as well as capable and reliable service providers that ensure cooperatives have the necessary support to succeed“

Here what is clearly stated is to form autonomous and efficient cooperatives and to give them necessary support and my idea here is that how can autonomous entities be formed from above? Is there robust situation for grass root organization?

These are the basic questions I want to discuss in detail. May be i will bring my experiences as well the strategy formulation used expereinces of other countries.

Ethiopian farmers organization and association formation goes to the Imperial period but the focus was on some package projects like Chillalo, Wolayta, Adaa, Tigrai agricultural developments and their viability was curved due to the feudal production relation. The next move was done during the military government and the extent of their organization was boosted from simple peasant associations to socialist mode of cooperatives. Some of the cooperatives were fully fledged once but they were no more functioning after the fall of the regime. One of the main reason was that cooperatives were obliged to render their production at a fixed price only to the government grain corporation. This was sometimes at a loss below the cost of production and its negative psychological impact prevail even these days.

The formation of farmers associations by the synthesization of government development agents or authorities at all level is the practice in Ethiopia. This in turn leads to out right submission of the farmers since these association are used for mobilization such afforestation, road works and money contribution for this and that reason. The other reason why the cooperatives were shattered like a deck of cards was that at the beginning the transitional government of EPRDF was afraid of such organized groups and tried to dismantle them labelling them remnants of the socialist regime. This also was true for teachers, youth,women and workers associations.

What I want to bring to my readers is that in any system where there is a change of government the supra structure changes when ever and where ever government changes but the functionaries stay to some extent but the situations in Ethiopia is different because it is a given the new supra structures functionalities abolish the existing infrastructure functionaries and starts from zero and this was also true for the current government.

Development in a country is learning from the past and building the future by ameliorating the fall outs of the previous. Ethiopians are not blessed with such visions and it is after 20 years a new strategy of cooperatives in vision. Currently it is designed to help farmers to organize in cooperatives in which I support because such entities can mobilize resources and could accumulate wealth that could be invested in other sectors. Moreover cooperatives play a big role in Sweden and Netherlands in modernizing agriculture and some engaged in processing agricultural produces. More experiences are also researched in the project document of different countries but when one clearly take the reality in Ethiopia, it is to practice a whole conducive experiences in unconducive reality due to institutional and structural constraints such as

  • Land policy
  • Practical issues of organization and association
  • Freedom of expression
  • An expected interferences

  • What are my worries in Ethiopia while they perform in Sweden, the NetherlandS, Taiwan, Kenya etc as discussed in the strategy paper?

    Before I discuss my worries I will try the Ethiopians experiences in forming association and values behind them. Ethiopians in the urban areas as well rural use their own ways of organizations or self help and production that are formed with voluntary will of the members. The most prominent are the Tsiwa or Senbete (group to celebrate saint days in turn), Debo or Jiggi (to perform agricuLtural practices like tilling, harvesting in group), Wenfel (working by small group in shift), Iqub (saving) and Idir(self help group for problems in families like wedding, burial). These values are the roots for the current saving and credit assiciations but these grouping are also victims of the ruling parties in the country.

    To name some during the junta regime most of the well organized Idirs were forced to contribute cash and material for the war during the time and this experiences is still exercised to force the Idirs to invest in the new hydro electric dam construction and other developmental works taking place irrespective of their capacities and capabilities.

    Unless such forced voluntary contribution are ameliorated and basic organizational basic constitutional rights that are vested to each member of the cooperatives it is just to start a failed organization from the beginning. Moreover unless the focus group have freedom in hand pumping great amount of investment is not a means to transform the agricultural sector in the country. The other reason for my worries are the structure of the agricultural system as a whole from the ministry to the Kebele level. In Ethiopia organizational set ups are always bumped at the highest tier in human, financial as well infrastructural facilities. This is not only the characteristics of the agricultural sector but all sectors including the office of the Prime Minister. What I mean here is that the offices at the federal level are more congested than the regional as well the regional is relatively congested while the Zonal, Woreda and Kebeles are empty or with scarce resources as well poor decision making since they hang on the good will of the cadres in the next tier of hierarchy.

    It is just to expect a manna from heaven to change situations in the grass roots with programs and projects to be implemented with people that are hand cuffed and mind cuffed to say the pot a pot. For those who are engaged in the field one can bring the realities of the watershed catchment rain water harvesting, farmers outcry about situations of repayment of loans for inputs from Amhara (Ambasel), Oromiyaa (Dinsho), Tigrai (Dedebit) and SNNP (Wondo) credit association.

    The development agents that are placed through out the country are engaged to facilitate the formation and strengthening of the existing cooperatives in the coming five years and I appreciate that the number of DA per farmers had increased for the last years. But the million dollar question is are they free to guide the farmers to their conscious? or to baptized the farmers about the idea of revolutionary democracy. I bring it here because Mulat and etal raised the same question during the launching of PADETS saying can the momentum be sustained? It was after their finding after the Sasakawa Global 2000 TV extension system the number of farmers who participated in PADETS was sky rocketed in three years from mere 360000 to 3.9 million.(1996). And now we are hearing about graduation of farmers from extension programs and also from Safety net programs.

    If one as an expert collected the data only from the daily news and sum up all to day may be more than 30 million farmers had graduated from such programs but either due to the politico drama or the ill conceived training of political programs rather than agricultural science and practical practice we also see another program shift in the GTP and subsequently this cooperative strategy.

    Totally When I write this article I am not against organizing the farmers in a small or large group but my worries are such programs that are put in paper are impractical with the current TPLF led EPRDF government due to that the government is imposing the plans as they do their political doctrine and those who said we could not be organized for our slavery then the outcome is to punish the non members by not availing the basic resources. Like the people in Dire Dawa after the flood devastated the town they were told that let your party CUDP do this for you because you put your ballots to them. Our responsibility is only who cast their ballot for us.

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