Training: How to set up a co-operative?

8.8.2017 - UKRAINE

The training on the Demonstration farm in the village Oleksandrivka (Dnipropetrovsk region, Ukraine) was organized by Ecodia and Coop Academy on 8th August 2017. The local community representatives from the villages Shulhivka, Sorochyno and Yelyzavetivka were provided with basic information about the co-operative business and learned new skills which can help them to set up their own co-operatives in the future. 

During the all-day training led by Olena Velichko and Zakhar Kanevskiy from Coop Academy, the participants learned not only about the history and different types of co-operatives but became also familiar with the elementary legal framework and rules in Ukraine: there must be at least three people to register a co-operative, there is a member investment at the very beginning and every new established co-operative has a status according to its specialisation.

The work in groups helped the participants to find out what kind of resources do they already have and how to use and organize them in the most effective way. As all the participants are based in villages and their families have long historical experience with local farming, they focused on the way how to use their skills from this area in the co-operative business of small or medium-sized farms. During the training, it was discussed how to organize a small business to work effectively and simultaneously meet the needs of individual members. Special attention was paid to the democratic model of organization and the benefits of shared ownership. I was also discuseed how can co-operatives increase employment in rural areas of Ukraine.

The part of the training was also a field trip to the successful co-operative "Dobrobut" set up by Antonina Kurylenko in the near-by village Andriivka. Kuriljenko took a bank loan to establish a family farm in 2011. She paid the loan back withing four years and now she is the chairman of the co-operative of 154 members from 19 villages.

Currently, there is around 1100 officially registered co-operatives in Ukraine, but only 600 of them is really working and only a minority of them works effectively. However, there are already cases showing that especially small democratic co-operatives could be the right solution for people from villages affected by the huge agro-business companies in Ukraine. Such as Myronivsky Hliboprodukt (MHP) which does not comply with European environmental standards and neglects the rights of the local residents. Owned by oligarch Juriy Kosiuk, and provided with regular state dotation and corporate loans by international financial institutions, MHP controls the poultry farming in the country. Trainings and workshops, such as the one organized by Ecodia and Coop Academy, can help to empower local people to use their own skills and resources and to became more self-confident and independent from big companies such as MHP.

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