Keys to sustainability in Ethiopia: Cooperation and partnership
Ato1 Dereje Etana is a 28 year old government employee in Jarso, Ethiopia. He has been working as a Cooperative Promotion Expert in the Cooperative Promotion Office since 2009.
A cooperative involves community members, who have common objectives, voluntarily coming together to form a democratically controlled organization. This organization pools financial resources by making equitable contributions to the capital and distributing it to members on a rotating basis.
When CPAR’s CIDA-funded Farmers First program was launched in Jarso in 2009, Ato Dereje was one of the key partners involved in conducting inception activities. Ato Dereje has helped the project by facilitating trainings, organizing vulnerable households into groups and expanding his knowledge of bookkeeping and management activities.
In collaboration with the District Cooperative Promotion Office, three cooperatives were established in Jarso, with a total of 755 members, 265 of which are female. These members are all participants in Farmer Field Schools, which bring farmers together to learn and experiment with improved agronomic practices. Ato Dereje confirmed that, “The cooperatives that have emerged out of Farmer Field Schools can be taken as a model among the others I have worked with.” He said, “The members are self-motivated and active in all aspects of their cooperative to make it more efficient and effective.”
The dedication and collaboration of the members is just one of the benefits Ato Dereje believes partnerships bring. “Partnership is more than financial support; it not only adds value to the quality of project implementation, but both the cooperatives and individuals benefit in terms of learning innovative approaches and sharing new ideas.” Ato Dereje says the best examples of well-run cooperatives that he has worked with to date are those that have emerged out of the Farmer Field School approach. Over the past four years, he has observed that, “the strength and sustainability of these cooperatives will very much hinge on the determination and commitment of individual Farmer Field School groups, which have been very effective due to the continued education and constant support that member farmers provide each other.”