Organization and group cooperation

Working together to solve problems is an age old solution. For example, there may be advantages in running an enterprise as a group. People can share their skills, time and resources by working together and women especially may gain confidence by being part of a group. Decisions to undertake marketing or input buying as a group have long been recognised as helpful to small farmers. The redevelopment of agricultural cooperatives may be of great benefit to rural producers. Group activities are not easy, however, and it is important that people weigh the pros and cons carefully and take informed decisions about the best strategy to adopt.

Library Resources

resource title type year resource
Trading up - Building cooperation between farmers and traders in Africa Book 2008

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This resource appears in: Organization and group cooperation

This book looks at the role that traders occupy in the value chain. Traditionally, the idea was to get rid of the traders. Often farmers think negatively of traders, accusing them of exploitation. By contrast, traders fulfil a vital role in the value chain. In fact, with the appropriate trading partners, farmers are better off, not worse. 

One of the keys to value chain development is to reinforce linkages and partnerships along the chain. This involves analysis of the relationships between the various actors involved. There are issues that affect both traders and producers. Weak institutional arrangements, and high transport and handling costs that are the result of weak public infrastructure, hurt traders and producers alike. Once traders and producers see the value of working together, they can progress to improve institutional issues. 

All of the case studies highlight how organizing both farmers and traders alike improves business relations. Improved chain relations can translate into benefits for farmers, traders and consumers. Finally, actors in the chain who work well together and trust each other can become partners and engage in dialogue with the government to create more supportive policies and actions on such key issues as taxation, research support and infrastructure.

Publisher Royal Tropical Institute (KIT), International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR)
Number of Pages 300 pp.
Primary Language English (en)
Region / Country Global, Africa, Eastern and Central Africa, Northern Africa, Southern Africa, Western Africa
Keywords Value Chain Analysis, Farmers
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Farmer-Controlled Economic Initiatives: Starting a Cooperative Book 2004

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This resource appears in: Organization and group cooperation

This manual suggests that cooperatives should be seen as private business organisations with primarily economic objectives. But it notes that it is not an easy task to organise and successfully develop a cooperative. The manual highlights that market conditions, government policies and the legal environment should be conducive for such a development. Moreover, strong leadership and management capabilities should be available, together with sufficient financial resources. The manual suggests that these are all factors which are often scarce in developing countries.

The manual also points to the historical record and notes that history has shown that cooperatives are not the most suitable institutions for the development of the poorest farmers. This is because these people are least able to finance and organise a cooperative. Yet, under the influence of current trends in market-orientated reform, privatisation, decentralisation and participation, cooperatives are currently being rediscovered as a suitable organisational structure for realising economic initiatives of farmers. The manual proposes that agricultural cooperatives in which the members both participate and contribute can thus become powerful instruments for the development of the rural community.

The aim of this manual, therefore, is to act as a guide to support farmers’ groups through the process of starting a cooperative business and to help them finding their way and make their own choices in developing a successful enterprise.

The first half of the manual covers useful background topics that are relevant to forming a cooperative:

  • What is a cooperative?
  • Why farmers are interested in cooperatives?
  • What is needed to form a cooperative?
  • Cooperative management
  • Statutes and by-laws
  • Finance
  • Potential pitfalls

The second half of the manual then describes 8 steps to the development of a cooperative:

  1. Developing the initiative
  2. Building consensus
  3. Establishing a steering committee
  4. Surveys and studies
  5. Institutional design
  6. Business plan and securing member commitment
  7. Involving other stakeholders
  8. Starting up the enterprise
The Milk Producer Group Resource Book Book 2002 English (en)

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This resource appears in: Organization and group cooperation

This "milk producer group resource book" is part of a series of practical field guides, produced by FAO, for people working in small scale dairying in developing countries. The book aims to promote the organisation of small scale milk collection and processing as a sustainable income-generating activity that can increase milk producers' incomes and improve their food security.

The book is intended for use by extension workers, project staff and group promoters who are working to set up milk producer groups or to develop already existing groups in rural areas. Topics covered include:

  • Forming groups - leadership, record-keeping, calling meetings and planning activities
  • Developing groups - staff recruitment, motivation, solving conflicts, developing links and milk producer group associations
  • Milk collection, processing and marketing - transport, testing and payment systems
  • Other group activities - input supply, information and advice, animal breeding and health services, financial services

The book concludes with a section on participatory tools.

The Milk Producer Group Resource Book  -  English (en)

The inter-group resource book Book 2001 English (en)

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This resource appears in: Organization and group cooperation

Small farmer groups can increase their economies-of-scale and bargaining power by joining with other groups engaged in similar activities. These inter-group associations are important since they allow small farmers to acquire new skills in the management of larger organizations. They can also serve as useful development vehicles, not only helping farmers solve their own problems but making it easier for governments to assist them in their efforts.

This resource book shows how, using a participtory approach, inter-group associations can be established in rural areas. It is intended for use by group promoters, extension workers and other rural development staff to help existing groups set up and run such inter-group enterprises. The manual represents the third in a series of FAO manuals on small farmer group development. The formation of groups themselves is covered in The group promoter's resource book, while development of group enterprises is described in The group enterprise resource book.

The inter-group resource book  -  English (en)

Author Rouse, J.
Publisher Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
Number of Pages 99 pp.
Primary Language English (en)
Region / Country Global
Keywords Group Formation, Farm Management, Farm Accounting, Self-Regulation, Small Farmers, Small Farmer Groups, Funds
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Considering cooperation: a guide for new cooperative development Paper 2001

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This resource appears in: Organization and group cooperation

This publication reviews the key elements needed for successful formation and development of new cooperative businesses. Six phases of cooperative formation are described:

  1. identifying the opportunity
  2. building consensus on the potential for a cooperative
  3. developing trust among potential members
  4. securing member commitment
  5. involving other stakeholders
  6. starting up the cooperative enterprise

Potential obstacles are presented for each of these phases and common causes for new cooperative failures are reviewed.

Key ingredients for successful cooperative start-up are discussed. These include:

  • a joint recognition of a common economic problem by the potential members and initial leaders;
  • a cooperative solution which will be more effective at providing the desired service than the prospective members could achieve individually.
Accounting is a Kid’s Game: Introduction to the Dynamics of Financial Statements Study Guide 1998

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This resource appears in: Organization and group cooperation

Accounting is an important matter that cannot be left only in accountants' hands. Everyone dealing with money in any kind of organization needs to know the basic principles of accounting, in order to understand his/her economic situation and be able to take decisions leading to the success of his/her activities'.

This first book of the series 'Accounting is a Kid’s Game' developed by ADA, Appui au Développement Autonome, and the NGO Alternativas (from Mexico) explains, in a clever and entertaining way, the basic principles and dynamics of the two fundamental accounting documents: the Balance Sheet and the Income Statement.

The book is addressed to urban and rural people who regularly carry out economic operations, individually or cooperatively. By simulating the creation of a cooperative enterprise, the authors show us, in a clear way, how the different economic activities and the financial situation of an enterprise are recorded in these two key accounting statements. These fundamental rules constitute a solid base for better understanding of the technical concepts of accountancy.

The book covers the following topics:

  • What is a Financial Statement?
  • The Balance Sheet
  • How to start accountancy in a cooperative enterprise: how to register income, investment and production.
  • The Income Statement.
  • The Balance and the Income Statement

At the end everything is summarised in diagrams and charts to show that it is just like a "kid's game"!

The simple and didactic presentation of this book makes it a highly recommended manual for trainers and facilitators providing training for entrepreneurs. The approach is so innovative and entertaining that it is useful for anyone who wishes to have a better understanding of financial management and who needs to explain it to others, e.g. credit officers, extension officers, cooperative managers.

Author G. Herrerias, R. Hernandez
Publisher ADA-Appui au Developppement Autonome y Alternativas Procesos de Participación Social A.C.
Number of Pages 78 pp.
Primary Language English (en)
Region / Country Global
Keywords Bookkeeping, Financial Management, Financial Statements, Accounting Standards
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The group enterprise resource book Book 1995

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This resource appears in: Organization and group cooperation

This book draws on more than a decade of experience gained in group business management in Africa and Asia under the FAO People's Participation Programme. The terminology used in the book has been kept very simple and it is well illustrated with examples, illustrations and exercises to help people explain the ideas to rural community groups. The book makes it clear that although a group-run small enterprise can have a better chance of success than an individually run business, not all groups are suited to carrying out income generating activities together.

The book is divided into four sections:

  • Part 1: Choosing the business - which has useful advice on helping people to choose business ideas and carry out feasibility studies
  • Part 2: Planning the business - which contains very practical guidance on how the group should organise itself to implement a business idea
  • Part 3: Managing the business - which includes guidance on keeping records, producing accounts, monitoring, maintenance and marketing
  • Part 4: The role of inter-group associations - how these could help a group with networking and provision of services.

This book is an excellent resource for group promoters, extension workers and other rural development staff helping groups to set up and run enterprises.

Author Bonitatibus, E.; Cook, J. F.
Publisher Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
Number of Pages 122 pp.
Primary Language English (en)
Region / Country Global
Keywords Enterprise Development, Group Enterprise, Participatory Processes
Related Resources
The group promoter's resource book Book 1994

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This resource appears in: Organization and group cooperation

This resource book aims to show how group promoters can help men and women in rural communities to join together and to work to improve their income and living conditions. It presents a participatory approach in which group promoters play a key role. Their task is to help the poor to form sustainable self-help groups and undertake income-generating activities.

Why focus on forming groups? This book suggests that by working in groups rather than as individuals, the rural poor are able to combine and make best use of their skills and resources. They can exchange views and ideas and choose the best options. It also argues that most important of all, a group has more bargaining power than an individual.

Why focus on small groups? The paper also contends that small groups of less than 20 persons usually work better than larger groups. This is because members get to know and trust each other and tend to work more closely and with fewer formalities.

Why focus on income-generation? The paper highlights that higher incomes allow members to satisfy their needs and also to invest in other productive activities. In addition, working together in income generation is a good way for the members to learn to cooperate and achieve other goals.

The resource book has been designed and written mainly for group promoters, extension workers and development project staff. It can be used directly in planning and conducting group meetings as well as being useful in the training of group promoters.

The book is divided into three sections. Section 1 describes the group promoter's functions and working methods and basic participatory learning methods. Section 2 then describes key steps in building self-help groups of the rural poor. The final section consists of the annexes that contain participatory learning and rural appraisal techniques, as well as a list of publications and addresses for further information on the self-help group approach.

Author Groverman, V.
Publisher Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
Number of Pages 112 pp.
Primary Language English (en)
Region / Country Global
Keywords Participatory Processes, Group Formation, Group Promotion, Income Generation, Monitoring And Evaluation
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