Today’s program is about the women in our audience.
You know how hard you work every day.
So why is it so difficult for you to earn an income from your work?
If you joined together with other women to buy and sell farm products, would you be able to improve your way of life?
Today we are going to find out how some women raised their incomes by working together in a cooperative.
A cooperative is a business that is owned and operated by the people who use its services.
They are the members of the cooperative.
The members of the cooperative share in the costs and the profits from the business.
There are different kinds of cooperatives.
One is a purchasing cooperative.
In a purchasing cooperative, each member contributes money to buy and share large quantities of seed, fertilizer and chemicals for their farms — and that saves everyone money because when you buy items in large quantities, you get better prices.
MUSIC/SOUND EFFECTS (Farm animal sounds — chicken, cows).
This story is about a group of farmers in Russia who started a purchasing and marketing cooperative.
Olga Tihonova is an agriculture specialist who meets with farmers in the Moscow region each week to discuss their problems and share information.
The farmers told Olga they had a big problem.
None of the farmers on their own could afford to buy seed and farm supplies in the large quantities that were needed to pay lower prices.
Olga suggested that they form a purchasing cooperative — that is, they pool their money to buy seed, fertilizer and chemicals in bulk.
Each farmer saved more than 15% on costs by buying through the cooperative.
They were happy with their decision to start a purchasing cooperative.
Then a buying agent contacted Olga and agreed to buy the farmers’ products for a price that would make them all more money.
In return, the cooperative had to guarantee good-quality products and a regular supply. At first, the farmers did not meet the standards of the buyer. So they met to discuss their problems, and invited a volunteer to speak to them about starting a marketing cooperative.
The farmers wanted to pool their produce so they could sell larger amounts on a regular basis. Olga and the farmers registered the marketing cooperative with the government. Olga now represents the group and signs contracts with many buyers.
The cooperative has been able to increase the sale price of their products by 10% because they can guarantee a steady supply of quality produce.
MUSICAL BREAK/SOUND EFFECTS(Upbeat musical bridge).
I am going to tell you another short story about a cashew marketing cooperative in Sri Lanka.
Farmers grow cashews in the Gampaha District of Sri Lanka.
Women sell the cashews along the road and in the local market.
Most of the women are not able to earn a stable income from selling cashews because there is a lot of competition and the prices are very low during the harvest season from April to June.
So thirty women got together and came up with a plan.
If they bought large amounts of cashews during the harvest season and stored them well, they could sell cashews throughout the year for higher prices.
The women needed money to purchase large amounts of cashews during the harvest, so they borrowed money from a local public service organization.
The women also registered their cashew society with the government.
The cashew society used some of the money they borrowed to rent a storage building and equipment.
They sold cashews in the market for higher prices during the rest of the year.
They also agreed to sell broken cashews to a local chocolate company.
These two stories show how cooperatives can help farmers from the time they purchase goods to when they sell them at the market.
Even though the two cooperatives are in different countries, they share some things in common.
Both cooperatives require their members to pay a fee to belong to the organization.
Members must also attend regular meetings and elect leaders.
Here are a couple of things to remember if you are thinking about forming a cooperative.
You need a careful business plan, and someone to keep track of expenses, fees and profits.
In many countries, cooperatives must be registered with the local government, so it is important to find out if this applies in your area.
Working together is the key to success for the farmers in Russia, and the cashew vendors in Sri Lanka.
Perhaps you and a group of women in your area could pool your resources to start a cooperative and improve your incomes.
Contributed by: Noelle Grosse, Researcher/Writer, Toronto, Canada, and adapted from information provided by the Russian Rural Information Network, Moscow, Russia, May 2000.
Reviewed by: Nancy Drost, Gender Specialist, CARE Canada, Ottawa, Canada.
Gampaha Cashew Processing Society, Sri Lanka, April 2000.
Starting an Agricultural Marketing Cooperative, Jerome Siebert, Center for Cooperatives, University of California, August 1999. Center for Cooperatives, University of California, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA, 95616 USA. Tel: 530-752-2408, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org