ILO Workshop aimed to boost agricultural cooperatives in Lebanon and Iraq and foster knowledge exchange

The PROSPECTS Programme held a Training of Trainers workshop to address the needs of agricultural cooperatives in the region, raise awareness about their work, and enhance local capacities by establishing a network of qualified trainers.

Press release | 18 October 2023

Beirut, Lebanon (ILO News) – More than 20 participants from Lebanon and Iraq attended an eight-day ILO Prospects Training of Trainers (ToT) workshop in Beirut. The workshop was designed to address the needs of agricultural cooperatives in the region, raise awareness about their work, and enhance local capacities by establishing a network of qualified trainers.

Ministerial representatives, cooperative director generals, private sector members, and union representatives from the region, also including Jordan, the occupied Palestinian territories and Syria, attended the training, receiving coaching from ILO international trainers using the agency's Think.Coop and Start.Coop tools. These training packages focus on ways to establish, join, and launch a cooperative and, eventually, run its management. Developed by the ILO Cooperative Unit, the modules have been translated and adapted to the different local contexts in the region through the PROSPECTS programme, a global partnership supported by the Government of the Netherlands.

"I would like to express my gratitude to the ILO and the Ministry of Agriculture for arranging this training event," said Jan-Jaap Sas, First Secretary at the Lebanon Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. "It is truly something to be proud of to see the ILO bringing together colleagues from various countries in the region, demonstrating the power of collaboration and partnership fostered by the PROSPECTS programme. The historical success of cooperatives in improving economic prospects is a well-documented phenomenon. Our work within cooperatives not only enhances economic aspects but also contributes to employment opportunities and decent working conditions. The ILO, with its extensive experience dating back to the 1920s, is well-equipped for this purpose."

The ILO's work within the cooperative sector in the region is founded on discussions with local and international partners, as well as the agency’s Recommendation No. 193. This recommendation emphasizes the promotion of cooperatives as an effective means to support decent work and sustainable development for all members of society.

Shaza Al Jondi, ILO PROSPECTS Chief Technical Adviser–Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq.
“Supporting the development of the agricultural cooperative movement across the region is a mission that the ILO deeply values. We are delighted to host this training in Lebanon under the umbrella of the PROSPECTS programme,” said Shaza Al Jondi, ILO PROSPECTS Chief Technical Adviser–Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. “This builds upon the ILO’s efforts to strengthen the role of cooperatives, both regionally and on a global scale. We are dedicated to tackling local challenges within diverse settings. Strengthening the capacities of cooperatives means empowering them to play a pivotal role in fostering economic growth, bolstering livelihoods, and creating quality employment opportunities. Ultimately, this paves the way for enhancing social unity at the local level and nurturing social and solidarity economy initiatives.”

Agricultural cooperatives significantly contribute to the global economy, creating jobs, reducing poverty, and preventing rural exodus through effective value and governance systems that help their members overcome challenges.

Cooperatives are also key to make a positive difference in the lives of the most vulnerable members of society, such as host communities and refugees. This is exemplified in Jordan, where cooperative services are extended to non-nationals, including refugees.

However, cooperatives' development in the region still faces hindrances from various local challenges, including the absence of national and local policies, limited awareness of cooperative significance, restricted agricultural sector financing, and the challenge of integrating women into cooperative societies to increase female participation.

While agriculture is crucial for employment and poverty reduction in Lebanon, its cooperative movement lags, affecting the overall growth of the agricultural and agri-food sectors nationwide.

“In these challenging times, the cooperatives could be the answer to fostering better cooperation among the people of a geographic area and improving their situation,” says Gloria Abouzeid, Director-General of Cooperatives at the Ministry of Agriculture. “Training is always essential, particularly in building the capacity of employees at the Lebanese General Directorate of Cooperatives (GDC) within the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) and other stakeholders in the cooperative sector. This approach aims to elevate the entire sector to a higher standard, with the ultimate goal of establishing sustainable cooperatives. Training should be designed to reach all members of the cooperatives, as many of them may not be fully aware of their rights and responsibilities.”

In Iraq, despite decades of promoting farmer cooperatives, also through specific legislation, their impact on the agricultural sector remains limited due to inadequate funding, a weak cooperative culture among farmers, and a shortage of qualified personnel.

“This session has been a valuable opportunity for us. The presence of representatives from Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Syria, and Iraq provides a unique chance to share knowledge,” said Yahya Abdel Mahjoub Al-Hamad, Chairman of the East Gate Organization for Sustainable Development, Economic Research and Market Studies in Iraq’s Nineveh. “I am now planning to establish a technical unit in our centre to aid those interested in forming cooperatives and propose legal amendments to align with the requirements of cooperative societies. These efforts will support association formation and enhance their success in Iraq.”

Last year, ILO PROSPECTS conducted a thorough assessment of cooperatives, farmers' and producers' groups, and related challenges in Iraq's Kurdistan Region. The Ministry of Agriculture is currently revising cooperative laws. Partnering with the ILO for training could strengthen the institutional framework. This partnership could also boost the role of the General Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Societies’ (GFACS) in improving food security and spur the engagement with private sector actors in the value chain to support cooperatives.

“Engaging in workshops run by international trainers from the ILO is a unique opportunity,” said Amjad Obaid Muhammad, Director of Horticulture from Dohuk Governorate. “Bringing trainees with diverse expertise from various countries is a valuable step, enriching our knowledge. Personally, it significantly improved my training skills, understanding of training methods, and strengthened my commitment to supporting our country's farmers in collective endeavours.”

PROSPECTS is a strategic four-year global partnership that supports host communities and displaced populations in eight countries across East and North Africa and the Arab States and which also includes the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank, UNHCR and UNICEF.