Participants of the South-South exchange visit to the Yuxi city of China from 18 to 20 December, coordinated by the UNOSSC Cities Project, unanimously concluded that, among many other things, the institutional capacity of farmer’s cooperatives is key to replicating the good practices in sustainable agriculture development of Yuxi in Nepal.
Nine delegates from two Nepalese cities, Khajura and Bardaghat, the United Nations Development Program in Nepal, and Nepal-China Cultural and Educational Council, a Kathmandu-based NGO, were invited to take part in the event on their varied capacities. They met with the Yuxi authorities, including a deputy mayor, and several leading agriculture companies. They set foot on a photovoltaic water pumping station, an agriculture product market, vegetable farms, and flower farms.
Ideas burst when mayors, technicians, and representatives of farmers’ cooperatives from Nepal and Yuxi met. Of note was the reoccurring discussions of the institutional capacity of local agricultural cooperatives.
For instance, cooperatives played 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, nodded his head and 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.”
Critical was the level of management, he added, given that 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,” reiterates Mr. Wang.
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.
It was learned that organizing small-scale farmers into cooperatives and integrating them into the agricultural value chains have 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 were increased, agriculture products standardized, access to market information and services improved, farmers’ bargaining power enhanced. These changes have eventually contributed to the development in agricultural productivity and the marketability of agriculture products of Yuxi.
The delegation 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 the company have won national awards and products are now being sold to the international market.
The Cities Project completed a demand-driven needs assessment of the Khajura Rural Municipality of Nepal in June, concluding that the city was in urgent need of improving its irrigation system and value chain development. Following the assessment, the World Food Programme China Center of Excellence referred the project of solar-power driven irrigation schemes in Yuxi to the Cities Project. The Cities Project, thus, planned this visit as an activity under the pilot project for addressing Khajura’s challenges.
Bardaghat Municipality resembles Khajura much in geographical, climatic and meteorological conditions and expressed similar demands in improving its agricultural productivity. The Cities Project, therefore, included Bardaghat in Khajura events, to prepare for embarking on a pilot project in Bardaghat in 2020.
Three officers from the Bureau of Agriculture of Yuxi accompanied the delegation, arranging logistics and answering questions. Also invited along with the mission were three officers from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of Yunnan province and the Ministry of Agriculture of China.
For more information about the Cities Project, please visit southsouthcities.org