The program provides a framework for RAF rural development partners to support more interested parties in developing new cooperatives in Romania by accessing public funds based on the methodology tested in four locations by RAF partners.
During 2012-2016 three NGOs with expertise in community development – CIVITAS, FDSC, and CMSC – piloted the development of cooperatives in four rural communities. They provided tailored technical assistance (facilitation, training, consultancy, capacity building) to support small farmers aggregate as a group, develop a business plan, legally register a cooperative, apply good governance principles and transparency, and run the day to day operations.
Their projects demonstrated the complexities of community development work needed to make a cooperative function properly. Relevant stakeholders have engaged in supporting building rural associations and in keeping the issue on the public agenda (MADR, LAGs’ Federation).
The path to farmers’ association tested by consortium is scalable with European Union (EU) funding available by 2020. Most of the funding will be channeled through the LAGs for their regional strategies therefore it is important they are ready to use this opportunity most effectively. Based on CRPE’s research, over 75% of the Local Action Groups’ strategies provide various funding opportunities that support the development of diverse associative structures for farmers.
In 2017, CIVITAS, FDSC, CMSC and CEED together with other interested NGOs and LAGs came together under the CoopNet collaborative framework, coordinated by CIVITAS. The role of the CoopNet network is to channel the know-how towards cooperative developers in different regions of the country.
The CoopNet network grew from 16 members in 2017 to over 80 active members (LAGs, NGOs and agricultural cooperatives) interested to promote association and to contribute to rural development
Partner organizations offered training and consulting to support:
- Local Action Groups to design the cooperative call for proposals guidelines
- NGOs, small farmers and consultants active in rural development to better understand the cooperative development process, and how to use available funds efficiently.
In turn, newly established agricultural cooperatives need competent leaders to increase their chances of survival in the market. Currently, CoopNet aims to grow a community of leaders and facilitate their collaboration for the development of new cooperatives in Romania.
- a pilot training program for the leaders of 20 agricultural cooperatives (training, mentoring activities, an international study visit, community launch events for new cooperatives).
- continuation of networking activities for the promotion of cooperatives
- research and dissemination of information relevant to the substantiation of public policies.
- maintaining the network functional and proactive to best represent smallholder farmers
- strengthening the capacity of newly created cooperatives through various learning and professionalization opportunities.
Centrul Roman de Politici Europene, through research and networking has maintained close communication with stakeholders and continues to advocate for public policies to support the formation and development of small farmers associative structures.