Agricultural cooperatives in the country have bemoaned poor enforcement of the Cooperatives Act which they say is derailing progress on development of cooperatives which help farmers to find markets.
A report from the recent agricultural cooperatives workshop in Lilongwe organised by the Interchurch Organisation for Development Cooperation (Icco) and Civil Society Agriculture Network (Cisanet) says the country’s cooperatives policy does not incorporate recommendations of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on cooperatives.
“There is weak enforcement of the cooperative legislation by government. The current cooperatives policy and the Act do not take into account a number of recommendations in ILO recommendation 193 of 2003 since the policy was adopted in 1997 while the legislation was enacted in 1998,” reads the report in part.
In an interview on Thursday, Cisanet national director Tamani Nkhono Mvula said the Cooperatives Act and policy need to respond to new developments affecting cooperatives.
Said Tamani: “Cooperatives by their nature are supposed to help farmers in areas of value addition to their produces, farm organisation and access to markets. The current set-up of the Act is not helping a lot to initiate this. There is need for the Act to be re-looked so that new developments taking place can be taken on board.
“The Act needs to respond to issues of cooperative development and agricultural marketing. The policies also need to speak to each other. Other equally related documents such as contract farming strategy are not articulating very well on development of agricultural cooperatives.”
He said the review of the cooperatives law and policy is crucial to harmonise the documents with other policies in the agricultural sector.
“The Cooperatives Act is based in the Ministry of Industry and Trade while agricultural cooperatives are supposed to be managed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security. There has to be proper harmonisation of agricultural policies and the Cooperatives Act,” said Tamani.
The report further says cooperatives are struggling to develop in the country because of lack of adequately trained personnel, financial constraints and lack of equipment.
“Government should involve the private sector in development and management of cooperatives. The department should also ensure cooperatives have business plans before registration. NGOs should not provide working capital to cooperatives to ensure independence and sustainability of the cooperatives,” reads the report.
Minister of Industry and Trade, Sosten Gwengwe, said in an interview on Thursday his ministry has not been officially approached on the need to review the cooperatives legislation, saying government is willing to consider any request to review the Cooperatives Act.