ACDI/VOCA’s cooperative development roots date to 1963 when U.S. farmer co-ops founded ACDI’s predecessor organization to assist cooperatives in developing countries. Worldwide, cooperatives have demonstrated their contribution to economic growth, food security and community development.
ACDI/VOCA retains a strong commitment to helping rural beneficiaries and for over 48 years has helped millions of farmers and entrepreneurs help themselves using the cooperative business model.
Cooperatives and Associations Make a Lasting Impact
A true cooperative is “an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise” (International Cooperative Alliance). Co-ops are:
- user-owned—members finance the cooperative
- user-controlled—an elected board of directors serves as the link between the membership and the manager
- user-benefitting—patronage refunds are returned to members based on the amount of business conducted with the cooperative
In some developing and transitional countries cooperatives are not democratic entities, and a stigma may be attached to the name “cooperative.” In this case, producer associations, clubs or otherwise-denoted organizations may be formed to channel the economic ambitions of a group. Cooperative principles frequently underpin these entities. However, an organization is only a true cooperative if it meets the three criteria listed above.
ACDI/VOCA’s Approach to Cooperatives and Associations
ACDI/VOCA promotes different types of organizations based on community context and goals, including legally registered cooperatives, associations, community-based enterprises, private limited companies and informal self-help groups.
ACDI/VOCA’s cooperative and association development approach is tailored to the needs of group members and designed to be appropriate to the development context. The types of programs that ACDI/VOCA champions are designed to stimulate, and not replace or deter, the expanding private sector in developing countries. The goal is a more vibrant, competitive and diverse market environment.
Groups Strengthen Local Capacity, Enable Scale
ACDI/VOCA strengthens the capacity of cooperatives and associations by helping to professionalize management, provide training or information services, scale up production and apply quality-control standards. We assist groups in accessing essential technical services, linking to higher-value markets, forming business alliances and advocating for a favorable regulatory environment.
Through cooperatives and associations, farmers and entrepreneurs can mobilize capital, pool knowledge, achieve economies of scale and foster vertical integration. They can create greater leverage in the marketplace and policy arena, attract business service providers and more efficiently link to urban and export markets.
Co-ops and Associations Drive Economic Growth, Promote Participation
Such groups not only catalyze local economic growth, but often also serve as the “glue” for social initiative and effective, equitable community planning. Co-ops develop human capital by encouraging the participation of women and youth. Effects are often widespread since job training, health initiatives and recreation programs can provide more prosperous and vibrant communities and even help deter urban migration.
ACDI/VOCA uses participatory methods and procedures to enable groups to form and to equip managers and members to perform their respective roles, assessing economic performance, overseeing technical and financial operations and propelling growth.
Click on the links below to learn more about ACDI/VOCA’s work in developing cooperatives and associations.
- Ethiopia – Feed Enhancement for Ethiopian Development (FEED)
- Global – Cooperative Development Program II (CDP II)
- Global – Resources for Cooperative and Association Excellence in International Development Website
- Kenya – Kenya Cooperative Development Program (CDP)
- Malawi – Market Linkages Initiative (MLI) Bridging Activity
- Mali – Mali Agricultural Value Enhancement Network (MAVEN)
- Paraguay – Cooperative Development Program II (CDP II)
- Russia – North Caucasus Agricultural Development Project
A Selection of Past Projects
- Bolivia – Cooperative Development Program
- Brazil – Cooperative Development Program (CDP)
- Cape Verde – USAID PL 480 Title II Development Assistance Program
- East Timor – NGO Sector Strengthening Program
- Ethiopia – Agricultural Cooperatives in Ethiopia (ACE) Program
- Ethiopia – Internally Displaced Persons Program
- Ethiopia – Smallholders Linkages Program
- Global – Past Cooperative Development Programs (CDP)
- Malawi – National Association of Smallholder Farmers (NASFAM)
- Mozambique – Cooperative Development Program (CDP)
- Paraguay – Cooperative Development Program (CDP)
- Philippines – Agricultural Cooperative Sector Study
- Philippines – Assistance to Northern Luzon Center for the Development of Cooperatives
- Philippines – Cooperative Marketing Project
- Philippines – Innovative Approaches to Cooperative Management, Finance and Trade (IAP)
- Romania – Agribusiness Development Project (RAD)
- Russia – Cooperative Development Program (CDP)
- South Africa — Community Entrepreneurship & Business Initiative (CEBI)
- West Bank – USAID West Bank Food Security Program