Good Practices for sustainable association in agriculture

CRPE Policy Memo no. 27, november 2012 (only available in Romanian)
Author: Alexandra Toderiță


In Romania the subject of association in agriculture has regained its importance on the public agenda slowly, but surely. We are way behind Western Europe at this chapter, even if right now a general consensus is shaping with regard to the advantages that cooperation can bring to small producers, on each link in the agri-food chain.

National or European backed Programmes in the last 20 years have had limited results, and we still lack coherent policies. In this moment the association in agriculture is very much based on personal relations and on trust capital, which is more than often fragile in communities, in the absence of a contractual approach.

The report of the Romanian Center for European Policies is based on a field research within which 76 farmers in 9 villages from various regions in Romania have been questioned. The analysis of the report’s results answers some basic questions:

1. Is association with economic purpose a “lost train” for small producers in Romania?
2. Are the memories and faults of communism the main reason for the under-development of this sector in Romania?
3. How can we build successful associative structures ? Is there a recipe that should be followed by the state/private entities in order to help them grow on “healthy” grounds?

The report concludes that the memory of collectivization  is no longer an insurmountable obstacle in the way of association, at least in the view of middle aged farmers, which are active and capable of development, but that indeed, the future of cooperatives does not stand in joint production, but in joint sales.

The week development of associative structures in agricultre is rather due to a low social capital, an insufficient promotion of functional initiatives of this kind,  but also to the lack of vision on the type of support that these associations would need (consultancy, organizational development, business planning).

It is possible! The advantages of successful models

The report illustrates various initiatives in the private sector that have created associative structures which are more or less durable, depending on the vision that they were based upon. Successful models commonly have a bottom-up, community development-type approach, with a strong local animation component and activities related to outreach, training and support in raising capital.

Thus, our analysis states that supporting the creation of agricultural associations with economic purpose should be considered to be a priority in policy-making on agricultural issues and provides a number of reccomendations in this matter.

This report has been published within a pilot-programme on ”Rural development through entrepreneurship and association”, an initiative of the Romanian – American Foundation, which, together with experienced organizations in rural economic development and community facilitation, aim to create functional and sustainable agricultural associations in four different regions of Romania.

CRPE has also published other reports on the issue of agricultural association in Romania- Why isn’t agricultural association atractive? Full report in Romanian here