|This story was produced by the ILO Newsroom.|
07 February 2013 – GENEVA (ILO News) – While the political reverberations of the 2011 revolution continue to resound throught Egypt, many of the country’s farmers are hoping positive change will reach the agricultural sector.
The cooperative is one of a number of organization in Upper Egypt whose members have, since 2010, benefited from SALASEL, a programme involving the ILO, UNDP, UNIDO, UNWOMEN, and the Egyptian government.
Eighteen million people live below the poverty line in Egypt, most of them in agricultural area. ILOexpert Huseyin Polat says agriculture provides critical income and employment for rural people, which in turn can help reduce poverty.
However, the potential of the agricultural sector is hampered by laws regulating the cooperative movement.
“After the revolution, SALASEL tried to bring farmers together to strengthen the cooperatives in the new system. There is a need for reform, to make co-ops more member-controlled rather than being an extended arm of the government,” Polat explains.
The current laws prohibit co-ops from establishing or participating in companies. They cannot import and export agricultural produce directly or establish funds to finance production process. In addition, most co-ops have weak institutional structures because they are poorly governed.
In January, the ILO held a workshop in Cairo with government representatives, cooperative farmers and others with an interest in the issue to discuss the strengthening of cooperatives.
Polat also toured Upper Egypt to explore the views of unions, farmers’ groups and government officials, including Saber Abd El Fatah, Under Secretary at the Agriculture and Land Reclamation Ministry. He agreed that the cooperative law needs to be amended, but added that donor support and training is a key issue.
“The real change will happen if we offer the existing cooperatives the necessary training to better manage their organizations as for-profit entities that play a role in establishing links between small farmers and high end markets. Donor organizations should start working closely on offering reform programs with training and finance to help the cooperatives on all different levels.”
“There is a great potential for these co-ops to create many more jobs, to reduce migration of people and help them get jobs in rural area.”