The landscape of farmer cooperatives in China: functions and diversity in a changing environment

H. Yang, C. Leeuwis, R. Lie, Y. Song

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1 Citation (Scopus)


The agricultural sector and the rural sector in China have experienced fundamental changes from the 1980s onward, and farmer cooperatives have emerged in response to these changes. Beginning in 1990, a series of different policies have been implemented by the Chinese government to promote farmer cooperatives (FCs). This article aims to explore the functioning of FCs on the basis of the type and scope of the services they provide and their connections with the rural communities. The findings show that activities carried out by FCs help to extend farmers’ engagement in value-chain participation and management. FCs, as organizational innovations, also provide opportunities to bring knowledge providers and farmers together. Some FCs are starting to coordinate activities for farmers, rural communities and local government to make better use of collective resources. Four types of FCs are identified in the research: commodity-based FCs, community-based FCs, specialized technology providers and credit service providers. The emergence of these four types of FCs is embedded in broader institutional developments. The government mainly promotes commodity-based FCs and specialized technology-providing FCs. Companies focus on commodity-based FCs, and research institutes and development organizations are involved in community-based FCs. These findings imply that an integrated and broader view of policies is needed to promote the development of FCs in the long run.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-155
JournalRural China : an International Journal of History and Social Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Agricultural innovations system
  • Collective resource management
  • Farmer cooperative
  • Value chain


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