Founding Organizations


Producer Organizations and Cooperatives in the Mediterranean

Ranging from small-scale to multi-million dollar businesses across the globe, co-operatives operate in several economic sectors, counting over 800 million members and providing 100 million jobs worldwide, i.e. 20 percent more than multinational companies. In the agricultural sector, co-operatives play a critical role, accounting for an estimated 50 percent of the agricultural world production. Assuming a variety of forms and playing different roles ? from production to marketing or input supplies, the number of agricultural co-operatives (?ACs?) in on the rise worldwide. 

In the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean (?SEMED?) region, Small and Medium Enterprises (?SMEs?) and family-owned farms are the main source of economic growth and employment, but they often face problems finding money to finance their activities or access new markets. The role that ACs could play in improving access to inputs, finance and markets for the very large number of agribusiness SMEs and family-owned farms in SEMED countries is widely recognized, but the latter are not yet developed to their full potential, and therefore their impact on social inclusion and employment is yet to be attained.

In Egypt, the first ACs were created at the beginning of the 20th century as ?agricultural co-operative syndicates?. To date, the total number of ACs has reached 7,000, most of which are engaged in production and marketing. Their membership is estimated at 4 million and is mainly composed of very small farms (of 1 to 3 feddans), due to the land distribution process that took place after the 1956 revolution. The co-operative movement is facing important challenges due to the duplication of roles caused by the multiplicity of co-operatives operating at different levels.

In Morocco, the agricultural sector is also very fragmented with 70 percent of farms having less than 5 hectares of arable land. In 2005, 65 percent of Moroccan co-operatives were operating in agriculture, with ACs totaling 1,171. Co-operatives are a central part of the Plan Maroc Vert (?PMV?), an ambitious plan launched in 2009 by the Moroccan government to boost the development of the country?s agrifood sector. The PMV very much promotes the concept of ?aggregation? to overcome the constraints related to the fragmentation of agricultural production structures. Institutions of different kinds are contemplated in the Plan to improve access to know-how, finance and markets, including co-operatives but also Groupements d?Int?r?t Economique (?GIE?) and Interprofessions (professional/sub-sector organizations). As one of the Plan?s objectives, the Government aspires to create up to 15,000 ACs by 2020, in order to ensure the full participation of small farmers in the PMV. 

The Tunisian cooperative movement started as a result of an intensive development program which begun in 1961. The program was reactivated in 2005 with the creation of Soci?t?s mutuelles de service agricole (?SMSAs? ? Mutual Agricultural Service Companies), which are meant to provide services to their members and upgrade farm management and production levels. There are currently 177 SMSAs in Tunisia, with almost 60,000 members, and more than 50 percent of them are engaged in agricultural production. In 2012, at the occasion of the International Year of Co-operatives in 2012, the Tunisian Ministry of Agriculture set new targets for the development of ACs in the country.

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