ETHIOPIAN CO-OPERATIVES { 40 images } Created 7 Nov 2015

Cooperative agriculture in Ethiopia has the potential to improve women’s lives.

Growing oil seeds presents challenges for the famers of Assosa in western Ethiopia. Many of the most vulnerable are forced to sell to when they cannot be guaranteed a good price for their product. Farms are often located in isolated areas which entails huge amounts of time and effort simply getting seeds to market. Many farmers do not have the resources to properly invest in their land and are tied into exploitative loan arrangements.

In response to these pressures, twenty farming cooperatives have formed the Assosa Farmers Multipurpose Cooperative Union. By working together, individual farmers are able to pool their resources and squeeze out exploitative agents and brokers. The Union provides loans to constituent members together with training and advice to help farmers make better use of their land. And by collectively hiring vehicles through the Union, farmers need not spend so much time ferrying their produce to market.

All these measures benefit farmers and have now provided the Assosa Farmers Multipurpose Cooperative Union the confidence to establish an oil-seed processing unit in the regional town of Assosa. With a planned annual output of over 500 tons of oil, the Assosa Edible Oil Processing Facility will create additional income that will be of direct benefit to the farmers that grow oil seeds. The processing unit will be able to transport oil to more distant markets and so insure a better return on their product. The processing plant will employ 28, half of them women. Much of the profit will be ploughed back into the cooperative to fund training and provide credit to farmers.

As with oil seed production in Assosa, harvesting honey also supplements the income of small farmers in the region of Amhara where there is a long tradition of honey production. However, without the resources to properly invest in production and the continued use of of traditional, low-yielding hives, farmers have not been able to reap proper reward for their labour.

The formation of the Zembaba Bee Products Development and Marketing Cooperative Union is an attempt to realize the potential of honey production in Amhara and ensure that the benefits reach small producers.

By providing modern, high-yield hives, protective equipment and training to beekeepers, the Cooperative Union helps increase production and secure a steady supply of honey for which there is growing demand both in and beyond Ethiopia. The collective processing, marketing and distribution of Zembaba's "Amar" honey means that profits stay within the cooperative network of 3,500 beekeepers rather than being passed onto brokers and agents. The Union has signed an agreement with the multinational Ambrosia group to supply honey to the export market.
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