Implemented between 2014 and 2017, this South-South cooperation project aimed to encourage the increase of food production in Botswana through the development of cooperatives and rural associations. Funded by the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC) and run by the Organization of Brazilian Cooperatives (OCB) with the technical support of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA), the project had a pilot character and focused on vegetable producers.
Of the two million inhabitants of Botswana, 39% live in rural areas; however, the vast majority of the territory (85%) is covered by the Kalahari desert. With a fragile economy and poorly diversified agricultural production, the country is heavily dependent on food imports. For example, the import of vegetables accounts for 75% of all food consumed nationally, making this sector strategic to the issue of food security. In this sense, the Botswana government has sought to encourage local producers to organize themselves into cooperatives so that they can better deal with problems they encounter individually, such as storage and transport of products. Farmers can thus become more competitive and cooperate in lowering the prices of staple foods to the final consumer.
The project to strengthen cooperatives and rural associations in Botswana aimed to disseminate the cooperative model for the promotion of agricultural development in the country. The cooperative dimension includes the acquisition of appropriate knowledge for the shared and participative management of businesses, the commercial orientation and the organizational capacity of the producers. Such knowledge aims at giving farmers autonomy in management and creative and sustainable management possibilities, as well as representativeness and legitimacy with the market and the country.
The sharing of the Brazilian experience with cooperatives involved technical visits and training in two main axes: the empowerment of family producers and rural community leaders to act as multipliers of the cooperative model locally, and the awareness of representatives of regulatory bodies to include the practice of cooperation in the formulation of public policies. With the collaboration of the Botswana government, producers with a cooperative profile - that is, market experts and the main difficulties for such ventures - were identified and, after this mapping, work and business plans were elaborated for the horticulture sector. The working meetings also involved civil society organizations such as the Botswana Cooperative Association (BOCA), the Botswana Cooperative Training Center and the Gaborone Central Market.
Training in Botswana and Brazil benefited a total of 43 people (including government agents and fruit and vegetable producers) and focused on planning, training and cooperative management, as well as horticultural crop management carried out in partnership with EMBRAPA Hortaliças). Also during the training period, farmers in the North Kweneng community decided to found their own cooperative, which will serve as a model to be followed in other regions of the country. Recorded in November 2015, the North Kweneng Horticulture Cooperative, which currently has 14 cooperating families, is supported by the Botswana Ministry of Agriculture and already has all the necessary documentation to provide food to local government social programs.
Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC)
On the Brazilian side: Organization of Brazilian Cooperatives (OCB) and Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA)
From the Botsuanese side: Ministry of Agriculture
Organization of Brazilian Cooperatives (OCB)
João Marcos Silva Martins