Social Innovations in Agriculture. Agricultural Cooperatives in the European Union and the Rest of the World: Guiding Lines for Georgia
Levan Dadiani – Manager of Agriculture and Food Safety Policy Programme, OXFAM-ENPARD
The agricultural cooperation in terms of social cohabitation and organization of production represents an innovation for Georgia. Following the collapse of the socialist formation and the collective farms in the 90s of the last century, the rather chaotically and unsystematically carried out agricultural land reform led to the origin of up to 800,000 small farms which, based on their scanty economic resources, low purchasing capacity and solvency, found themselves under rather unequal conditions on local and international markets as compared with large business operators; this is exactly why most of these farms are still engaged in subsistence, noncommercial farming and the absolute majority of the population being on the poverty level and below it is represented by these very farms. The advanced international experience of turning such farms into commercial and profitable enterprises and ensuring thus the sustainable and growing development of the agricultural sector demonstrates that the organization of the sector on the principles of agricultural cooperation represent the most viable system, under conditions of which the agribusiness subjects and particularly small farmers will be given a chance to maximally raise their competitive capacities and strengthen their positions on the consumer and sale markets.
The interest of small peasantry and family farms as of the main driving force are being prioritized at the legislative level in Georgia, although only the legislative support will not really suffice to ensure the development process. For effective realization of the Law of Georgia on Agricultural Cooperatives a long-term national policy should be elaborated and implemented, which will, in turn, require rather serious expertise knowledge, experience and other appropriate resources. The role of the government in determining the national agricultural cooperation development policy should be based on the following program directions and principles: noninterference into activity of farmers and compliance with the cooperative principles; the promotional legislative and regulatory base; political support; infrastructure construction and reconstruction; financial and institutional support; macroeconomic stability; advisory and scientific support. The program guiding lines proper can be perceived as follows: raising awareness and education; investments, services and extension; lobbying and advocacy. Of much importance is to give consideration to the fact that the cooperative system’s diversity and complexity require that the support programs in all the three directions would be concurrently planned and implemented.