How Agricultural Marketing Cooperative Unions Strengthen Food Security for Smallholder Farmers

How Agricultural Marketing Cooperative Unions Strengthen Food Security for Smallholder Farmers
Agribusiness

Prosper Lupenza

Rural Development & Food Security Professional

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How Agricultural Marketing Cooperative unions (AMCOS) can contribute to smallholder farmers in strengthening their food security; A mode to minimize hunger in low-income families.

Unlike in developed countries, where governments may directly support their farmers in many aspects, mainly through subsidies, the story is quite different in low-income countries. Most smallholder farmers are still struggling to make ends meet in their entire production chain. Access to agricultural inputs, being linked to a proper market, and avoiding post-harvest loss are all common daily challenges leading to annual food insecurity in their households.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture and Rural Development 1998, “Agricultural Market Cooperative Union (AMCOS) is a business organization owned by farmers to sell their products collectively. It allows producers to accomplish collective functions they couldn’t achieve independently. Most agricultural producers have little power or influence, compared to the large agribusinesses or food companies that purchase their commodities”. Therefore, with AMCOS, the process is simplified for an individual farmer to source extension services, easier access to the market for their produce, and easier access to storage facilities. Still, it is used as a platform for poor farmers to collectively raise their concerns easily where they want to be heard at the right time.

Significance of AMCOS in promoting food security to smallholder farmers:

  • Simplifying the supply of extension inputs.

Logistics and supply chains in low-income countries, including Africa, are weak and mostly unorganized; AMCOS makes sure agricultural inputs like pesticides and fertilizer are derived on time during cultivation seasons by channeling the inputs to the farmers. AMCOS creates a link between government agencies, agricultural stakeholders, and farmers. This means that applying those extension services at the right time would significantly increase their yields.

  • Putting extension training in place;

One of the overlapping challenges in smallholder farming is the shortage of technical know-how on how to establish and cultivate crops properly, as well as optimize the time and way of harvesting the final product to secure quality and limit yield losses. AMCOS provides expertise in managing crop production within the entire supply chain but also gives support in managing finances, which could be obtained by selling a surplus of food, which eventually strengthens the survival of food insecurity. Most AMCOS either employ extension officers, irrigation engineers, economists, finance officers, and other required experts or can quickly request them from the central government on time, which an individual couldn’t do. (Anania. P et al., 2018).” cooperatives provide agricultural education to the members like teaching better farming methods for both coffee and food crops, animal keeping skills as well as how to treat coffee with various environmentally friendly methods and/or chemical, spacing, planting, processing of coffee, crops that are unfriendly or friendly to coffee, storage of coffee and other issues arising from day to day.” In Africa, most smallholder farmers are challenged by ignorance in implementing proper agricultural practices driven by the government’s low budget to serve all smallholder farmers across the country.

  • Provision of storage facilities

Food loss has been an ongoing contributor to food insecurity in small-scale farming, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, for many decades. Most of these cooperatives have their own storage warehouses, guaranteeing the safety of the harvested crops products. At the same time, that gives farmers the flexibility to choose the best moment to sell their production, achieving the best prices and a more constant supply of the product in the market for longer periods throughout the year. Additionally, farmers have enough food in the household, and they can diversify their daily dietary intake by selling surplus grains at a profitable price, allowing them access to nutritious food.

When government agencies, like research institutes, want to introduce new crop varieties or any agricultural technology that could help farmers improve their production, AMCOS is always the way to go because it can reach the grassroots level on time. In Tanzania, for instance, the government, through AMCOS, can supply fertilizer, nutritious yellow sweet potatoes, and any other new seeds when released to the market.

  • Easier access to irrigation schemes

Most irrigation projects cost a lot of money to construct, which means farmers benefiting from these schemes are required to pay higher returns; in fact, it is difficult for most smallholder farmers to afford this cost, plus they cannot lease large portions of land as compared to their counterparts wealthy farmers. In this case, AMCOS leases many hectares of land within the irrigation schemes and distributes them to smallholder farmers according to their financial strength. Members of AMCOS will be cultivating in this scheme with guaranteed higher yields.

Conclusion

AMCOS promotes the enhancement of improved food production, processing, transportation, storage, and even linking its members to the market. Altogether, they positively impact smallholder farmer households; increased financial resources obtained from selling their crops have created diverse income sources like small businesses (entrepreneurship), ensuring diverse nutritious food access.  However, further discussion should be conducted based on case studies or findings.

Further reading:

Farming 101 – How to be a Farmer – Step by Step Guide

Farmers Cooperatives: Strengthening Small Farmers Through Collective Action

Strategies for Small-Scale Farmers in Tropical Africa to Adapt to Climate Change

Farmer Producer Organizations: A Way to Increase Smallholder Farmers’ Income

Empowering Small-Scale Farmers: Strengthening Market Access and Value Chains

The importance of Networking and Collaboration amongst Farmers In Zambia and Sub-Saharan Africa

Unraveling the Impact of Contract Farming in Nigeria’s Agricultural Ecosystem

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