Cooperatives’ role key to achieving SDGs: Stakeholders

Kathmandu, December 13

Amid the country facing difficulty to integrate its development goals with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) due to lack of ample human and financial resources, promotion of cooperatives can be a major force for a country like Nepal in capitalising on the SDGs, as per stakeholders.

As the cooperative sector is directly linked to various targets of SDGs including poverty reduction, gender equality, health, food security and nutrition, employment and women empowerment, among others, it can contribute to capitalising on the economic, social and environmental objectives of SDGs, they said.

“Achieving SDGs is directly linked to the country’s economic growth, which is possible through increased production, market expansion and increase in access to financial services. As cooperatives have direct linkage to people at grassroots level unlike banks, cooperatives should partner with local people and other groups to boost country’s production base,” said Gopi Nath Mainali, secretary at Ministry of Land Management, Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation.

In the context of Nepal where a majority of the population is engaged in the agriculture sector, cooperatives have a bigger role in enhancing the agriculture industry as the sector can play an important role in the realisation of the proposed SDGs, experts have opined. As a majority of the population here depends on agriculture for livelihood, there is high demand for agriculture resources like seeds and fertilisers and access to market. In such a context, agriculture cooperatives become a crucial means to ensure that the needs of small farmers are addressed, thus transforming the agriculture industry.

Though there are almost 34,000 cooperatives across the country with more than six million members and the sector has been ever growing, a majority of cooperatives are deposit and credit based while they are less focused on production and job creation. In a nutshell, cooperative sector has not been able to contribute to the country’s economy by a larger extent.

However, it is to note that the government has initiated different programmes lately to promote agriculture cooperatives and link the cooperative sector to agriculture production. Earlier this year, the government and United Nations Development Programme signed an agreement to implement the ‘Cooperative Market Development Programme (CMDP)’ which aims to establish and operationalise cooperative market chain of fruits and vegetables to increase farmers’ income and other livelihood opportunities.

Being implemented in Kavre, Lalitpur, Dhading, Makawanpur, Nuwakot and Chitwan in the first phase, the programme envisions identifying 72 pocket areas of vegetable farming in these districts and helping vegetable produce of these areas to reach the market through cooperatives.

“Collecting and supplying vegetables via cooperatives will ensure that farmers get a market for their products and reasonable price for their produce,” said Suman Manandhar, national project manager of CMDP, adding that promoting agriculture cooperatives will be crucial to end the practice of ‘middlemen’ in the agriculture industry.