In spite of professional and political support for cooperatives in West Africa, their record of accomplishments is very spotty. Advocates of cooperatives have been blamed for not tailoring the movement to the needs, social practices, and orientations of traditional societies. In this paper, an attempt is made to show how indigenous groups can be organized to improve the coordination of traditional groups, local governments, financial institutions, and aid donors. Village cooperatives, called "Groupement Villageois," in southern Senegal were allowed to organize their own business affairs. Credit was provided to the cooperative group by the development agency. Cooperative activities were structured around cultural norms, village traditions, and production systems, rather than merely Rochdale principles. The village chief and elders were responsible for linkages and contacts with external entities. The whole village, and not just individual members, was responsible for credit, marketing, and distribution. After two years of operation, cooperative repayment of credit funds averaged 90 percent. Input use of food crops had increased and member contributions to cooperative equity were on the rise. Applications of this cooperative model were expanding rapidly throughout the region.


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