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Kees Blokland and Jur Schuurman

This contribution differs from most other chapters. First, the authors are practitioners in a development cooperation. Their organization, Agriterra, is a Dutch agency working with membership-based rural organizations: cooperatives and farmers’ organizations. In their chapter they state that the presence and strength of such organizations has a positive influence beyond their own membership. The authors claim that it is also the general development process (growth, democratization, increasing equality) that benefits from the presence and actions of membership organizations, since they contribute to the checks and balances that are indispensable for social and economic progress in any society. This is explained by certain mechanisms inherent to these organizations, in addition to their general nature as ‘schools of democracy’ in the Tocquevillian sense. Some evidence of this more general impact is provided but remains anecdotal; hence, the authors call for ambitious research to pinpoint with more precision the way this relationship works.

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Jos Bijman, Roldan Muradian and Jur Schuurman

This synthesis chapter discusses the issues that are at the core of the academic discourse on the transformation of cooperatives in developing countries. The first is about inclusion or exclusion of particular groups of farmers. This issue has gained significance because cooperatives-as-businesses are more likely to be selective in allowing farmers to become members. The second issue relates to the inherent tensions in cooperatives and how these are affected by the transformation process. For instance, the classical trade-off between equity and efficiency seems to become more pronounced when cooperatives focus on economic functions and entrepreneurial activities. The third issue is about the institutional environment of the cooperative and what conditions determine the type and extent of support from governments, NGOs and other facilitating organizations. The chapter ends with suggestions for further research on cooperatives and POs in developing countries.

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Edited by Jos Bijman, Roldan Muradian and Jur Schuurman

Agricultural cooperatives and producer organizations are institutional innovations which have the potential to reduce poverty and improve food security. This book presents a raft of international case studies, from developing and transition countries, to analyse the internal and external challenges that these complex organizations face and the solutions that they have developed. The contributors provide a greater understanding of the transformation of traditional community organizations into modern farmer-owned businesses. They cover issues including: the impact on rural development and inclusiveness, the role of social capital, formal versus informal organizations, democratic participation and member relations, and their role in value chains.