- Opening CAMA, the Marre-Roseau Agricultural Cooperative, Commune of Ganthier, September 2019.
A cooperative is a business that is owned and managed by its members. Through the process of establishing a cooperative from the ground up, farmers learn how to work together, make important decisions for the good of all members, how to adapt and open new markets, diversify their crops, grow profits, be transparent, and share resources. Although none of them ever heard of a cooperative, they understood the basic concept as it echoes their tradition of a ‘combit’.
From the start, farmers expressed their need to have continuous training and support. They also made clear that they wanted to remain independent agricultural producers.
After one year of training, farmers who never heard of a cooperative when the conversation first started, today own one and are learning to manage it. As they progress, they take on increasingly more managerial responsibilities.
Our training includes a myriad of different subjects and evolves according to farmers’ changing needs: the importance of adopting sustainable agricultural methods, such as permaculture and regenerative agriculture, of building an ‘esprit de corps’ within the group, embracing new technologies, and planning for the long-term.
Owning a cooperative increases farmers’ ability to build capital make decisions that benefit all; they remain independent producers while having the ability to aggregate their production to attract bigger clients; expand their markets, plan for exports; and diversify their crops. Owning a cooperative is also building their legacy asset.
EWI’s Talia Farms program plans to open five agricultural cooperatives in the Lake Azuei region, each of 100 members. When co-op management becomes more experienced, each co-op can double and triple their membership.
Two other cooperatives were scheduled to open in 2020, but the pandemic, social unrest, and the terrorizing gang wars have made it impossible to work in other areas of the region.
Training will continue through the next three years. It addresses the following
Cooperative formation, management, growth, and vision
Transform training sessions into the CAMA manual
Continue to promote sustainable agricultural methods, such as permaculture and regenerative agriculture
Promote environmental remediation and stewardship in all aspect of community life
Organic production and the socioeconomic benefits
The importance of diversifying crops
Work with farmers to modernize farms and adopting new technologies
Reinforce women’s equity and youth integration and retention
Explore the concepts of personal assets, legacy assets, creating wealth
- The Women’s Goat Project_______________________________________
To celebrate the formation of CAMA, its members chose the Women’s Goat Project as their first cooperative project. Women’s equity is one of EWI main criteria. The choice of choosing a project benefiting women reflects CAMA members’ understanding that women’s equity is crucial to the community’s economic success.
In most developing countries, a goat is a four-legged savings account for people who live in poverty and cannot open a bank account. Owning a goat gives the family financial security; when there is a need for a large amount of cash – an upcoming wedding, or a serious illness – the family can sell a goat. Since women are responsible for animal husbandry, the more goats the more women’s power over financial decisions grows.
All EWI-CAMA projects require participants to pay something. How much is up to them. Farmers decided to pay 20% of the goat’s purchase price. EWI agreed. They paid their part, EWI paid the rest.
Specifically for the goat project, participants were also required to give their first kid (baby goat) to another family, and that family must do the same, and so on. Each recipient of a goat must pay the 20% of the current purchase price, which goes to the cooperative’s coffers to start building its capital. This process also enables the community to exponentially grow their local herd, thus their wealth.
Results of the Goat Project
1. Farmers paid something for the goats, which gives them pride in their ownership, helps to wean them from learned dependency and gain a greater agency. They are now stakeholder in the overall regional development program.
2. Women gain equity.
3. The Project reinforces the advantage of owning and managing a cooperative.
4. In five years, Marre-Roseau farmers who started with 18 families owning one goat, will grow to 350 families owning between 1 and 5 goats each, which will give them a more solid financial footing.
EWI will offer the possibility to each new co-op to celebrate its founding with a goat project.
- Coffee and Cacao Production___________________________
EWI and CAMA are moving Talia Farms into the next phase of economic advancement.
Being at a high altitude, the location is ideal for growing high quality coffee and cacao. This will diversify the crops and create a new revenues stream. It will also introduce a crop that will be exported.
For this project, CAMA will adopt a new technology enabling producers to verify the plants’ DNA, and provide traceability capabilities, a must when exporting food.