Co-operatives and Development

Cooperatives are voluntary organizations that are democratically controlled by members. Cooperatives are also patronized and controlled by their owners and hence the term “owner user” and ‘owner controller’. The concept of cooperatives has sometimes been misunderstood to the extent that cooperatives have been associated with socialism, communism as a result some governments have not allowed cooperatives to function properly.

It’s vital to note that Cooperatives provide organizational framework which enables the members of the community to handle tasks that enhance production and productivity, marketing and value addition, employment creation thus enhancing incomes and meeting social needs. For cooperatives to succeed and also benefit the owners, the value of self help must be fully embraced. However, More often than not, one hears a question like what has a cooperative done to assist its members, and yet the valid question would have been how the members have utilized the cooperatives to enhance the socio economic status? Cooperatives differ from other forms of businesses in that they are member centered as contrasted to companies where capital is at the centre in order to earn profits.

Contribution of Cooperatives to Development
Through their varied activities, Cooperatives are in many countries significant social and economic actors in national economies, thus making not only personal development a reality but, contributing to the well being of the entire humanity at the national level. Production and productivity enhancement: Cooperatives play an important role in delivery of agricultural in puts so that they are easily accessed by the producers. Such in puts are required by farmers to increase productivity and produce good quality, increase farm income and become more competitive. i.e. they form a link between farmers and input dealers.

Since they are organized, they can readily afford hiring of agricultural extension services all aimed at production and productivity improvement. Infrastructure development: Through pooling resources members are able to put up infrastructure for production, agro-processing and marketing e.g. establishment of ginneries processing plants e.g. coffee hullers, dairy products processing, storage facilities market information, agro processing and value addition.

Employment creation: where there is a well functioning cooperative organization at least 2 people are employed directly and many others indirectly through various trades facilitated by a cooperative.

Investment opportunities: by investing shares into a well performing and genuine cooperative returns are generated on shares and depending on how one has economically patronized the organization, patronage bonus is always paid

Financial intermediation: Availability of financial services helps farmers in a number of ways.

Farmers can be able to get in puts in time through the available credit services. Secondly when farmers products are bulked in the stores while awaiting better markets, farmers can borrow from their own SACCOs to cater for their pressing needs as they wait for marketing of their products.

Social services provision: These include among others health, housing, utilities e.g. rain water harvesting, solar power scheme, and transport-bodaboda.

Human resources development: All round training is always provided to membership, staff and leaders of any genuine and well performing cooperative organization Social Impact of Co-operatives By putting cooperative principles and values and ethos in practice, they promote solidarity, tolerance and accountability; while as schools of democracy, they promote the rights of each individual-women and men. Cooperatives are socially conscious responding to the needs of their members whether it is to provide literacy or technical training. Through partnership building they are able to tackle social issues like HIV/AIDS pandemic, environmental conservation among other things.

Through their varied activities, cooperatives are in many countries significant social and economic actors in national economies, thus making not only personal development a reality but, contributing to the well being of the entire humanity at the national level.

Natural Resources and Development
Natural resources are distinguished by their renewability and ownership regimes. Renewable resources include forests, fisheries and wildlife. Exhaustible resources include minerals that can only be replenished over geologic time. Ownership regimes frequently dictate the rate at which natural resources are degraded, with open-access regimes often leading to the highest levels of degradation.

The use of natural resources also poses difficult social and distributive questions. Poverty can lead to unsustainable use and environmental degradation, and threatens fragile ecosystems. The poor suffer disproportionately from over-exploitation and degradation of resources, yet they lack sufficient political or economic representation. Disputes over natural resources could therefore arise for a number of reasons: Actions of one group may intentionally or unintentionally impinge upon the ecological well-being of others. Those with greater access to power also tend to control natural resource use and distribution. As well, rapid environmental change, unequal distribution of power, and changing consumption patterns exacerbate natural resource scarcity. This can lead to fierce competition between groups impacting on development negatively. Finally, people define natural resources in ideological, social, and political terms. Thus, land, forests, and waterways not only represent material resources that people struggle over, but are often culturally and symbolically important.

Because natural resource conflicts are complex, pluralistic approaches are more effective in identifying barriers to progress and peace building strategies. Multi-stakeholder analysis, in particular, offers researchers and policymakers an effective means of understanding the different interests and power relations among those involved. Various research methods can further enhance this approach. They include participatory rural appraisal, participatory action research, gender analysis, and the analysis of differences in class interests and power relations.

Greater opportunities for change emerge when local stakeholders are involved in analyzing the causes and alternatives to conflict. However, conflict-resolution strategies have limitations. Collaborative approaches such as conciliation, negotiation and mediation based on western experiences with alternative dispute resolution (ADR) may not work in conflicts involving natural resources. ADR techniques require both cultural and legal conditions, such as a willingness to publicly acknowledge conflict, the voluntary participation of all relevant actors, and administrative and financial support. Such conditions may prove elusive in many contexts in both North and South. Moreover, ADR may lead to greater frustration if the causes of conflict remain beyond the stakeholders’ understanding and control. At the same time, Western traditions of conflict management must be balanced with the study of local practices, insights, and resources. Even more important, they note, conflict itself may be a catalyst for positive social change in certain circumstances, but only if violence can be avoided.

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