Cooperation for competition : linking Ethiopian farmers to markets

G.N. Francesconi

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


Throughout history, rural smallholders have formed various forms of associations to confront access-barriers to the market. It is estimated that 250 million farmers participate in agricultural cooperatives in developing countries. Agricultural cooperatives are considered to be a fundamental pillar of rural development strategies, as well as a core institution in the process of governance decentralization and agri-business development. In Ethiopia, where agro-ecological conditions are generally favourable, 85 percent of the national population lives in rural areas under subsistence or semi-subsistence regimes. Agricultural cooperatives are advocated by the government as key market institutions to exploit Ethiopia's agricultural growth potential. The scope of this study is to improve the understanding of the role played by cooperative organizations in linking Ethiopian smallholder farmers to emerging markets. Through exploring the evolution of supermarkets, integrated supply chains, and global commodity exchange networks, this study sheds light on the relationship between rural cooperation and farmers' competitiveness. Quantitative data that form the basis for this study were collected from the Highland regions of Ethiopia, in the period between 2003 and 2006. Findings suggest that cooperatives are not a panacea to boost rural competitiveness. Collective action assists smallholders in procuring state subsidy for production, but does not necessarily lead to increased commercialization. Only when collective action involves collective marketing do farmers become more commercial, further improving production volumes and productivity. However, in the process of commercialization and production intensification quality management is often neglected in Ethiopian agricultural cooperatives. This study reveals guidelines for public-private partnerships so that cooperative farmers can maximize commercialization and optimize the balance between quality and productivity.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Kuyvenhoven, Arie, Promotor
  • Ruben, Ruerd, Promotor
  • Heerink, Nico, Co-promotor
Award date19 Jan 2009
Place of Publication[S.l.]
Print ISBNs9789085049890
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • farmers
  • markets
  • small farms
  • market competition
  • ethiopia
  • development economics
  • associations
  • agricultural cooperatives
  • cooperative societies
  • networks

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