Agri-cooperatives are positively impacting the lives of farming/pastoral communities though facing challenges relating to capacity limitations.
The GTP II clearly indicated that agriculture would remain the main source of economic development during the plan period laying goals like to increase value addition by 8 percent annually. The objective is not obscured-- to ensure food security, contain inflation and supply the growing agro-processing industry with inputs, among others.
Attaining such goals is lofty indeed. It could not be attained overnight. And it is in such vein that the government has put directions including the enhancement of farming communities' cooperatives by equipping them with all the required facilities.
Due to this, a number of agricultural cooperatives mushroom in the country over the past decades. Hence, the cooperatives have helped farming and pastoral communities in providing them with agricultural inputs, expertise advises, value additions and in finding market to their products.
It is not hyperbolic if one says that the effort has been increasing the product and productivity of communities.
Medin Mekonen is Dire Dawa Multipurpose Farmers' Cooperative Societies' Union Director says: "The primarily task of cooperatives is to increase productivity by supplying farmers/pastorals with improved seeds and farming equipment as well as finance."
To him, the activities of cooperatives in this regard have helped struggling communities to see improvement in their lives.
For instance, Dire Dawa is known for its low precipitation in general, he noted, hence there has to be way out to overcome the challenge. As a result, our union has been helping members to be competitive and productive using irrigation in a-2000 Ha of land. Members produce cereal crops both to satisfy their demands and supply surplus to the market, according to him.
Using improved techno- logy, they also produce tomato, onion and chilly, he adds.
"We go as far as produ-cing 800-1000 quintal of tomato per hectare."
He also said that the average production of tomato per hectare stood at 40 quintal in most places in Ethiopia.
The government's support and the effort of the Union as well as individual farmers are credited to this success, according to him. The improved seed provision, field selection, financial and technical supports are the silver bullet to this achievement, Medin added.
"On top of this, the farmers are vigilant in following up their farms; if anyone identifies any strange insect or the likes, they report to extension workers before it poses harm on their produce."
The Union which comes to view with a capital of 38, 000 Birr has managed to grow it to as big as 17 million Birr, as this writer learnt during a field visit at Dire Dawa earlier this month on the 10th Agricultural Cooperatives Day.
The establishment and expansion of agricultural coope-ratives has been helping farming communities and pastorals nationwide in many ways.
The government has further attached emphasis on the area and has been doing its level best to assist the sector. One among this is launching under graduate and graduate level studies in most of the country's unive-rsities. Hence, the cooperatives' administration has seen improvements over the last decade.
Regarding this, Haroma-ya University Academic Affairs Vice President told a conference organized in connection with the Day that the University has been undertaking researches to improve the performance of cooperatives. He also added as it has been training students aiming at filling gaps seen in the coopera- tives.
Documents have it that the aggregate capital of cooperati-ves hit over 22 billion Birr. This shows their potential and tasks should further get strengthened to make have astounding impacts on the lives of the public in general.