Government of Canada marks International Day of Cooperatives by helping Ethiopian farmers access business services and agricultural inputs

July 6, 2013 - TORONTO — The International Day of Cooperatives serves to recognize and reaffirm the role of cooperatives. Canada has made cooperatives a priority because dynamic, growing economies create more opportunities for people everywhere. To recognize this day, the Honourable Julian Fantino, Minister of International Development, announced a new initiative that will help smallholder farmers in Ethiopia explore and develop their potential through earning a living and ultimately improve their quality of life.

"Canada recognizes that small landholder farmers are the backbone of economies in many developing countries," said Minister Fantino. "That is why we are providing technical support and training cooperatives to offer more business-oriented and gender-sensitive services to their clients in Ethiopia. This initiative will enable as many as 1.7 million smallholder farmers, both women and men, to have higher incomes and be able to adequately feed their families year-round."

Smallholder farmers in Ethiopia face a number of challenges in accessing tools needed for production and markets for selling their crops. They depend on a well-established agricultural cooperative system that allows them to work jointly toward achievements that would not be possible if each farmer worked alone. For example, cooperatives in Ethiopia often provide essential materials and services for their members that would not otherwise be available, such as linkages to markets, storage bags for grain, and services such as wheat milling that add value to farmers" raw products.

The Engaging the Private Sector in Support of Smallholder Farmers in Ethiopia project, implemented in part by the Canadian Co-operative Association, will strengthen linkages between smallholder farmers and markets in Ethiopia. This initiative will also increase the number of available private companies that provide farmers with agricultural necessities such as fertilizer and that purchase the crops farmers produce.

Cooperatives provide as many as 100 million jobs worldwide, estimated to be 20 percent more than multinational enterprises. They also support market growth by providing goods and services that are not necessarily well supplied by other private sector institutions or by governments. The Government of Canada has also worked with other cooperatives to help local communities in many parts of the world yielding the following results:

  • More than 650 smallholder farmers from the Bacho district of Ethiopia purchased micro-irrigation equipment that increased the value of their production by 35 percent and their average gross revenues by 39 percent;
  • Since 1996, Canada has contributed to the creation of twelve Entrepreneurs Financial Centres, which offer financial services to small and medium enterprises in Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania, Burkina Faso and Panama. Today, they reach more than 75,000 small and medium enterprises, that have women participating as clients, employees and directors;
  • For more than two decades, Canada has worked with cacao and coffee cooperatives in Central and Western African countries to develop better practices and become more commercially viable. After 23 years of collaboration, this has allowed farmers to improve the quality of their supplies, and receive better market information and better training;
  • Createmore than 200 sustainable credit unions and improve access to financial services for 380,000 women and 432,000 men; and
  • Improve the quality of cacao products and help for producers to obtain fair trade certification in West Africa (Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Liberia and Nigeria). This helped cocoa producers develop relationships with exporting companies and solidify trade partnerships.

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For more information, media should contact:

Daniel Bezalel Richardsen
Press Secretary to the Minister of International Development
Telephone: 819-953-6238
Email: danielbezalel.richardsen@international.gc.ca

Media Relations Office
Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD)
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Email: media@international.gc.ca
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Backgrounder

Canada Supports Smallholder Farmers in Ethiopia

The Engaging the Private Sector in Support of Smallholder Farmers in Ethiopia project ($10 million, over four years) will be implemented by the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency, the Canadian Cooperative Association, the United Nations Development Programme and other local partners.

Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency

The Agricultural Transformation Agency was established by the Government of Ethiopia in 2010 to bring together government, private sector, and non-government partners to address systemic bottlenecks in the agriculture sector. Drawing on international experience and knowledge of the Ethiopian context, the agency identifies and, assesses bottlenecks and, then develops and pilots solutions for eventual transfer to, and scale-up by, the Ministry of Agriculture. The agency's establishment is modelled on similar public sector bodies in countries such as South Korea and Malaysia that were instrumental in fostering rapid economic growth. The agency has already achieved some notable successes, including the scaling-up of new production techniques that significantly increased production of "teff", one of Ethiopia's most important grains. The Engaging the Private Sector in Support of Smallholder Farmers in Ethiopia project will support this work.