Along with the concerns for the cost-effectiveness and convenience of Farmer Organizations, as discussed in previous pages, there is an urgent need to evaluate how sustainable they are after donor support ends. Perhaps a good measure is two years after all donor assistance ends. That would represent two complete cropping cycles and should be sufficient to demonstrate long term potential to continue serving their members. The questions that need to be considered are:
- Do they continue to exist as effective organizations?
- Or, have they remained as nothing more than a shell organization that is no longer providing the intended services to their members?
- If existing, how have they evolved? Are they still a cooperative with annual elections and a timely turnover of officers, or have they been effectively taken over by a single individual, running it as a private business?
- If continuing, are they expanding or contracting in terms of members served, area involved, market share?
- If continuing, what market share do they command, and who commands the balance? Is this increasing and which declining?
- If they have become dormant, what has replaced them to provide the support services to the smallholders?
- If dormant, what happened to the assets?
- Were they divided among the members,
- In a complete state of disrepair, or
- Absconded by an individual?
This might also be a good time to look at just what percent of the beneficiary pool actually participated in the cooperative, even when operating with donor assistance. The beneficiary pool is all members of the geographic area that could have participated in the cooperative, as opposed to those who actually agreed to become members.
The final question is: how many similar organizations were spontaneously inspired in the area? If farmer organizations are a real benefit to farmers they should be stimulating additional organizations without donor assistance.
Ultimately, the bottom line is what percent of the farmer organizations mandated by donors succeed beyond the donor support, and is this rate of success acceptable to the donors and the taxpayers whose funds are being utilized?
Also, if this success rate is not acceptable, what are the options to provide the smallholder with the essential support services with a better chance of long term success?
Last Revised: 29 March 2010