"Empowering Market Actors" Learning Series: Cooperative Professionalization
In Rwanda, 72,000 agricultural small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) present a major opportunity to effect change in the sector and spur broad-based economic growth inclusive of smallholder farmers. Over the past five years, the USAID/Rwanda Private Sector Driven Agricultural Growth project (PSDAG), has explored, developed, and refined its multi-pronged approaches to helping increase smallholder incomes by promoting private sector investment in Rwanda.
The cornerstone of PSDAG’s success in improving local private sector partners’ market viability has been a US$5 million Value Chain Competitiveness Fund (VCCF), through which the project identified SME partners and provided co-investment grants that allow them to invest in technology upgrades and strengthen relationships between themselves, producers, investors, and financial institutions. The VCCF was utilized to reduce risk and accelerate private sector investment; help partners pilot new technologies and business models; support capacity building via knowledge transfer; facilitate increased access to finance in the sector; and enable SMEs and associations to strengthen organizational and advocacy skills. PSDAG has partnered with over 50 SMEs, 92 cooperatives, and four civil society associations to address their investment and advocacy challenges.
Through this five-part Agrilinks Learning Series, we will share some of our key thinking, processes, and lessons learned related to Cooperative Professionalization, Access to Finance, Social Inclusion, Business Development Services, and Public-Private Dialogue. We hope that donors, governments, and partners will find these learnings useful as they design and implement their own efforts moving forward.
Cooperatives are an important resource for both farmers and off-takers when it comes to extension information, aggregation, access to services, and more. But many cooperatives are financially unsustainable or underperform due to poor management. Through PSDAG, USAID has designed and implemented a comprehensive set of efforts around cooperative professionalization that included business development services (BDS), quality management services (QMS), data utilization, digitization, and complementary activities.
The attached PSDAG Learning Brief highlights the key takeaways from our November 2018 convening of more than 100 stakeholders in Kigali, Rwanda, and summarizes PSDAG’s approach to professionalizing cooperatives, its challenges, and its results.
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