South-South Cities Exchange: Capable Cooperatives Are Key to Replicating Yuxi Practices in Nepal

By March 4, 2020 Cities Project

A South-South learning exchange on agriculture value chain and solar-driven irrigation took place in Yuxi city of China from 18 to 20 December 2019. Representatives from two Nepalese cities, Khajura and Bardaghat, the United Nations Development Program in Nepal and Nepal-China Cultural and Educational Council participated in this field learning exchange. This exchange was supported and coordinated by the World Food Programme (WFP) Centre of Excellence in China and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of China. Field visits were arranged by the Bureau of Agriculture of Yuxi.

This South-South learning exchange comes as a follow-up step after the Cities Project completed a demand-driven needs assessment of the Khajura Rural Municipality of Nepal in June 2019. The needs assessment presents a preliminary finding that Khajura has an urgent need of improving its irrigation system and value chain development. Following that, jointly with the World Food Programme (WFP) Centre of Excellence in China, the project of solar-power driven irrigation schemes in Yuxi to the Cities Project was identified as a suitable good practice. Bardaghat Municipality in Nepal resembles Khajura in geographical, climatic and meteorological conditions and expressed similar demands in improving its agricultural productivity. Bardaghat authorities expressed strong interest in joining the South-South exchange visit and were included in the delegation.

During the South-South learning exchange between the cities, the Nepalese delegation had fruitful discussions with the Yuxi authorities, including a deputy mayor, and several leading agriculture companies. They also visited and assessed sites in Yuxi such as, a photovoltaic water pumping station, an agriculture product market, vegetable and flower farms. Ideas and knowledge were exchanged when the mayors, technicians, and representatives of farmers’ cooperatives from Nepal and Yuxi met, for instance there were reoccurring discussions of the institutional capacity of local agricultural cooperatives.

Cooperatives play a pivotal role in managing and maintaining facilities of a photovoltaic water supply system, also known as a solar-driven irrigation system, located in the Hongta District of Yuxi. Since its installation in 2014, the system has helped optimizing local cropping structures by making possible the planting of high value-added but water-consuming crops, such as peas and medical herbs, in the prone-draught project area and achieved a remarkable increase in farmers’ income.

The central, provincial, city, and district governments jointly funded the project. After the construction of infrastructures and installation of facilities, the irrigation system was handed over to cooperatives, members of which are the farmers using the system, for the day-to-day operation, such as recruiting staff to supervise pumping stations and collecting service fees from farmers.

When asked about the replicability of this system in Khajura and Bardaghat, Deputy Director of the Bureau of Agriculture of Yuxi, Mr. Wang Dong, shared his observations “The first step was setting up well-organized cooperatives for water resource management. Not until the cooperative was ready did the government invest and put in place the needed infrastructures and facilities.” He further added, that given the technologies required were, in fact, very affordable and Nepal has immense potentials in micro-hydro power. “Without step one, the system would have been wasted.”

A farmers’ cooperative generally refers to a cooperative where farmers pool their resources in certain areas of activity. It is a form of business organization with the purpose of maximizing the benefits it generates for their members, as opposed to the profit maximization objectives in common investor-owned firms. One of the observations that emerged was organizing small-scale farmers into cooperatives and integrating them into the agricultural value chains played a critical part in the industrialization and modernization of the agriculture sector of Yuxi. Thanks to greater scale, better organization, more technical guidance in the cooperatives, the quality and quantity of agriculture production increased, agriculture products standardized, access to market information and services improved, farmers’ bargaining power enhanced.

The delegation also noticed that contract farming was applied in all six agriculture companies visited by them. In each case, farmers adjoin the company through a farmers’ cooperative which, on the one hand, enters into sales and purchase agreements with the company, and, on the other hand, organizes farmers for production activities and provides farmers with technical support. One such example was provided by the Yunxiu farmers’ cooperative, which organized farmers in planting, packaging, branding, and selling, and also provided research and development support to farmers. The cooperative was so successful that it fulfilled its mandates and registered as a limited liability corporation in 2009. Breeds developed by the company have won national awards and products are now being sold to the international market.

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