Agri-Cooperatives Building Agri-Enterprises Conference: A National Learning and Action Planning Workshop

August 27-28, 2015, Ugnayan Hall, Partnership Center Loyola Heights, Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines

For the past 29 years, PAKISAMA has mainly performed the role of an advocate for agrarian reform and rural development.  PAKISAMA, however, also has to attend to the economic needs of most of its members. Since 2010, PAKISAMA has been providing value-chain services directly to 3,000 farmers in 12 provinces organized by 60 primary cooperatives and associations.  By 2014, PAKISAMA had concluded that given the experience over the past five years, agri-cooperatives provide tremendous opportunities for individual farmers and fishers to grow their farm businesses and increase their income. In the June 2015  National Assembly of PAKISAMA, the primary coops present agreed that it was time that a Federation of Cooperatives under PAKISAMA is formed. 
The “Agri-Cooperatives Building Agri-Enterprises Conference: A National Learning and Action Planning Workshop” held onAugust 27-28, 2015 in Quezon City aims to gather 18 primary cooperative-members of PAKISAMA already doing agri-business and providing services to members to: (a) understand better and generate lessons on the operation of a successful primary agri-cooperative, how a national agri-financing  federation works, and how a marketing corporation works to support primary agri-cooperatives;  (b) discuss the importance and objectives and stages of forming a national agri-cooperative and the issues attendant to its formation including structural implications to PAKISAMA and other stakeholders;  and (c) come out with a plan of action on next steps towards the formation of the National Agri-Cooperative Federation with the view of consolidating PAKISAMA membership on one hand, and increasing ownership and involvement of other partner institutions such as NATCCO, PhilDHRRA, and partner agri-cooperatives supported by Agri-agencies operating in the country. A total of 21 PAKISAMA officers/members, 16 staff, and agri-agency and network partners (about 45% women) attended the Conference. 
Day 1 took stock of the experiences in service delivery of a primary cooperative (Sorosoro Ibaba Development Cooperative/SIDC), a coop federation (National Confederation of Cooperatives/NATCCO), and a marketing corporation of primary agri-cooperatives (GlowCorp).  The key issues and challenges in extending agri-based business enterprise development services and how these can be responded and /or mitigated were identified.  Diagnostic tools for assessment and planning of related service to agri-based enterprises development were also shared with the participants.
On Day 2, Rep. Cres Paez and Chair of the Cooperative Development Authority USec Orlan Ravanera shared their views on PAKISAMA’s plan to establish a National Federation of Agri-Coops.  Rep. Paez emphasized that a coop should be seen as a business and a bargaining organization that will need strength in numbers and capital. If PAKISAMA wants bargaining power, it should merge, consolidate, or have a federated structure. Usec Ravanera expressed his strong support for PAKISAMA to form a federation of agri-coops as this a gap in the coops movement, and there is a need for a national platform to address the social and economic injustices long suffered by Filipino farmers.
After two days of the Conference, PAKISAMA had come to a consensus decision to go for the formation of a national federation of agricultural cooperatives in the country. This decision would be subject to consultation with the general membership of PAKISAMA. Various proposals have been surfaced – e.g. need for a Technical Working Group, research, profiling, etc – and some issues need to be resolved, e.g. members who have yet to become coops.  It is hoped that these processes and firmer decisions would take place within the next year or so.
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