Cooperatives are a powerful tool for creating sustainable economic, social, and environmental impacts. At NCBA CLUSA, we work to develop, advance, and protect cooperative enterprise domestically and internationally to build a better world that empowers people to contribute to shared prosperity and well-being for themselves, their families and communities, and future generations.
NCBA CLUSA expanded our footprint to Ecuador in 2019 through the USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer Program and in 2020 through the USAID-funded Cooperative Development Program (CDP). The Government of Ecuador has shown increasing interest in the role that cooperatives can play in the country’s development, and NCBA CLUSA has been coordinating closely with the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG) to promote opportunities for cooperative education and growth in the agriculture sector.
In August 2020, 85 field technicians from the MAG were trained in associativity and cooperativism through NCBA CLUSA’s Farmer-to-Farmer project. Associations and cooperatives are an integral part of the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) in Ecuador where organizations and enterprises are created based on principles of solidarity to produce goods or provide services while pursuing both economic and social aims. These field technicians learned about cooperative model basics including the cooperative principles and unique features of the cooperative business structure; the legal framework of cooperatives in Ecuador and how associations can convert to cooperatives; and how associativity can serve as a foundational social development tool.
The Farmer-to-Farmer project conducted a follow-up assignment in November and December on modern Cooperativism. Over 100 rural association leaders participated in the nine virtual sessions, and more than 50% of participants were women. Since there is a need to improve the leadership and professionalization of associations and cooperatives, these trainings provided rural leaders with a better understanding of the global cooperative movement and the cooperative principles and values; the implications and benefits of transitioning from associations to cooperatives; economies of scale; and cooperative financing.
Four Farmer-to-Farmer volunteers led these two assignments and together have a wealth of experience in the global cooperative movement and in Ecuador’s growing cooperative sector. The international group of volunteers included cooperatives experts from the United States, Costa Rica, and Ecuador. Guest speakers from the region also presented successful cooperative model experiences, including Cafenorte (coffee) in Colombia, Consorcio Lechero (dairy) in Chile, Norandino (coffee, cacao, and sugarcane) in Peru, Federacion de Cooperativas de Produccion (producer coops) in Paraguay, Asociacion de Cooperativas Argentinas in Argentina, and Jardin Azuayo (savings and credit) in Ecuador.
On the heels of these successful trainings and cooperative networking, NCBA CLUSA and the MAG signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on December 10, 2020. The MOU highlights the collaboration between NCBA CLUSA and the MAG towards the development and strengthening of the agricultural sector, associativity, and modern cooperativism.
The MOU was signed by NCBA CLUSA Ecuador Country Director Francisco Donoso and Xavier Lazo, the Minister of Agriculture and Livestock. The MAG promotes programs for women and youth inclusion such as the Super Mujer Rural and Joven Rural (Super Rural Women and Rural Youth respectively), and with this agreement, the hope is that smallholder farmers will learn to produce and work together more inclusively and strategically for a better future using the cooperative model. The virtual event was also attended by Andrés Pareja, Ecuador’s Undersecretary of Agricultural Innovation Networks at the MAG, and USAID Ecuador Representative William Gerald Kaschak. Mr. Kaschak expressed that the USAID mission in Ecuador will promote the sectors of organic agriculture, renewable energy, and agritourism, among others through technical assistance strategies.
Building on these partnerships and the growing momentum in the cooperative sector, NCBA CLUSA’s CDP project, Creating an Environment for Cooperative Expansion (CECE), is conducting an analysis of Ecuador’s cooperative law and regulation. Two cooperative law experts in Ecuador are leading the analysis with guidance from an international consultant (one of the previous F2F volunteers). Focus group discussions and stakeholder workshops will be held in 2021 to engage cooperative experts and leaders in various sectors. Given the Government of Ecuador’s vision for cooperative development in the country, legal and regulatory reform will facilitate a more enabling environment for cooperatives to grow and thrive.
This article was adapted with new information from the article, “NCBA CLUSA signs MOU Ecuador’s Ministry of Agriculture to promote co-ops as a fundamental social development tool”. Read that story here.