May 5, 2017, 11:30 AM
Staff of Livestock and Horticulture Development Project (LHDP), a co-financing project by International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Government of The Gambia, went on a countrywide sensitization and awareness creation for establishment of the project beneficiaries into producer co-operatives organizations from 27 Novemberto 1 December 2013.
The awareness creation targets horticulture and rural poultry beneficiaries that are supported by the project to improve smallholder farmers’ access to markets and to create a fair price for their goods.
Speaking at various regions of the country, Abdoulie Touray, Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) officer at the LHDP, described Co-operative as a member-owned and controlled business that operates for the mutual benefit of its members.
According to Touray, LHDP project aims to help small-scale rural producers (mainly women) to increase their incomes by improving the yield and quality of their horticultural and livestock products.
He further stated that co-operatives are autonomous associations formed and democratically directed by people who come together to meet common economic, social, and cultural needs.
Baba Gibba, Principal Agricultural officer Agribusiness, spoke at length on the importance of Co-operatives, noting that Co-operatives are founded on the basic principle of participatory and good governance system.
According to him, the LHDP, in collaboration with Agribusiness, is helping to form farmers’ into co-operatives, saying the LHPD is the first project to help farmers to establish co-operatives in their region.
Mr Gibba noted that co-operative organisations are guided by principles: voluntary and open membership, education, training, and concern for communities.
He explained to rural farmers that a General Assembly is the highest policy-making body of the co-operative and is the final authority in the management and administration of the affairs of the co-operative.
It is composed of members who are entitled to vote, duly assembled and constituting quorum.
“By forming a co-operative, you will be able to obtain products or services you need, and you will be able to define the characteristics of the products or services with the other members and no other person will take your products at low cost, especially you the gardeners and poultry producers in the rural areas,” Mr Gibba.
“Smallholder farmers can find it difficult to market their produce and earn money. As a result, they’re forced to sell off their produce at a give-away price, leaving them in perpetual poverty.
“Agribusiness with support from LHDP, we’ll help your groups to register; help your groups to develop a standard constitution, the registration fees is D500.00 and you don’t need to pay tax yearly.”
He adds: “National Association of Cooperative Credit Unions of The Gambia (NACCUG), Gambia Teachers’ Union Credit Union (GTUCCU), GTTI Cooperative & Credit Union, etc are all formed to serve the interest of their members and you (the farmers) can also do the same or even better than them if you come together.”
For Mr Sheriff T. Sanyang, Assistant M&E officer of LHDP, urged farmers to co-operate and form themselves into co-operative societies which will in turn help in marketing their products in order to improve their living conditions.
He added that with a co-operative bank the farmers would be able to market their produce and also have access to bank loans which they could use to start their own business.
Madam Darboeding Darboe from LHDP Sankandi Poultry Farm Association commended the LHDP project for its efforts at ensuring Gambian farmers form co-operatives.