Establishing agro-cooperatives in Sudan to empower farmers

To improve the income levels and resilience of host and refugee community farmers in Sudan, ILO PROSPECTS is supporting the development of agro-cooperatives through training and peer support

News | 19 April 2022
Training of trainers on agricultural cooperatives held in Sudan. ©ILO
Sudan’s widespread rural areas accommodate over 45 per cent of the country’s population with most people living below the poverty line and engaged in less productive agricultural practices. In addition to this fragile situation, the rural areas receive a large influx of refugees and internally displaced persons.

The PROSPECTS Partnership in Sudan aims to improve the access of host communities and forcibly displaced people to education, social protection and decent work. To support rural employment and livelihoods, ILO PROSPECTS works to improve agricultural practices in East Darfur (Nimir and Assalayaa) and West Kordofan (Keilak/Kharasana and El Meiram), the host regions to large numbers of forcibly displaced populations.

Mr Sean Paterson, Chief Technical Advisor, ILO PROSPECTS Sudan, said: “The ILO’s support is enabling small plot farmers to improve agricultural productivity through dedicated mentoring on good farming practices and provision of quality inputs, such as improved seeds, fertilizers, fungicides and hermetic bags. However, increased productivity is not enough to provide bargaining power to individual farmers in the market. We thus felt the need to invest in the development of agro-cooperatives which could empower them as a group to achieve their social and financial goals.”

Globally, cooperatives have been a champion of improving the living and working conditions of women and men, especially in rural areas. The ILO promotes cooperative development by working with the governments on inclusive cooperative policies and to build skills and capacities of locals to create and strengthen them.

To begin the process of cooperative development, the ILO’s Think.COOP and Start.COOP training modules for people interested in joining or forming a cooperative were adapted to Sudan’s operational context with support from an international subject matter expert. Starting January 2022, the adapted modules were then used for developing a cadre of 20 field trainers through a national Training of Trainers (TOT) workshop held in January 2022.

“Master trainers from ILO’s COOP department capacitated field trainers in Sudan on the technical details of developing and operating a cooperative. These trainers engage with a diverse group of host and refugee community farmers, having different needs and capacity to absorb information. Thus, at the same time, we worked on improving training delivery capacity of the selected trainers,” explained Paterson about the process.
Trainers sharing information on forming agro-cooperatives in Ethiopia ©ILO

Soon after the workshop, the trainers and ILO’s implementing partners kicked off the community-level meetings to identify and select small plot farmers interested in the formation of agro-cooperatives.

“To date, 40 field-level COOP trainings have informed 100 small plot farmers on development of cooperatives. There is a high demand for training across localities, which indicates that the training is locally appropriate and successful,” added Fatima Sirelkhatim, National Project Coordinator, ILO PROSPECTS, Ethiopia.

The establishment and registration of small plot farmers into recognized cooperatives will allow the ILO to systematically support them with training on improved agricultural practices through the State Agriculture Extension Services. The groups can also access better quality seeds and modern farm equipment provided through PROSPECTS initiatives.

The ILO hopes to reach up to 1,000 beneficiaries through development of agro-cooperatives. In the long-term, the ILO’s support could lead to a 100 per cent increase in the harvest for farmers, which could substantially improve their household income and thus support a more resilient rural economy.