The role of subsistance farming cooperatives in improving rural household food security : the case of Mwendo sector, Ruhango district/ Rwanda.
Agricultural cooperatives play an important role in rural Rwanda is as the country is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa and the majority of population relies on subsistence smallholder farming. Agricultural cooperatives have been regarded as a way of promoting smallholders, particularly subsistence farmers, where collective operations can increase agricultural production for a household. But although research indicates many factors affecting cooperative development and agriculture productivity these factors are not the same in every country. This study investigated the role of agricultural cooperatives in improving household food security and factors contributing to the success of smallholder agricultural cooperatives. It is expected that isolation of benefits of agricultural cooperative members in food security and the factors influencing production may assist government and other institution dealing with food security in plans and decisions to support smallholder farmers. The study randomly selected three registered rural agricultural cooperatives in Mwendo Sector growing pineapples, peas and maize. The research sample size of 150 cooperative members’ and 20 non-cooperative members was used to explore the agriculture cooperative in Rwanda, factors influencing production in agricultural cooperative and benefits of belonging or not belonging in a cooperative in Rwanda. Data were collected through questionnaires. In order to complement the quantitative data and results of the study, focus group discussions and key informant interviews were also used to appraise these research questions. A cross-cutting conceptual framework for measuring effectiveness of agricultural cooperatives was elaborated using literature review and it was used for comparative analysis as effectiveness of the assessed cooperatives. The results revealed that cooperatives possess the same organizational structure, only differences are found in internal organization. The study further found that the factors influencing productivity of agricultural cooperative are equipment used in agriculture, training received by cooperative members, cooperative organization, government assistance and extension officer services, inputs used in production, marital status of members, age and level of education of cooperative members. From the findings it was found that cooperative members benefit from cooperative income, government assistance and skills from cooperative training in agriculture. Other benefits found are increase of production and market of cooperative produces through cooperation and promotion of culture and unity in the locality through various social and religious activities within cooperative members. Research recommends the government and its stakeholders to sensitize so that every smallholder should belong to the cooperative for the sake of helping them in groups. Government should facilitate cooperatives use of improved equipment and inputs through offering intensive trainings on financial management, agriculture and animal husbandry which augment production. Government also should ensure affordable bank credit rate to cooperative farmers, provide improved seeds to the farmers and avoid delay of delivery. On the other side, cooperative members should be determined, investing in cooperative and dealing with challenges in order to be self-reliance as a way of fighting against food insecurity.
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