Columbia seeks Danish help for developing co-operate societies in the farming- and food industry
This news is translated and redirected by SCIENCE from the Department of Food and Resource Economics. Within the Danish-Columbian experience- and knowledge exchange, the possibilities of transferring the Danish co-operative movement and experience with collaboration to Columbia is being investigated.
Columbia is recovering from many years of armed conflict with the guerilla movement FARC. The agricultural- and food sector have suffered and the cooperation between the agricultural sector and the related industries is in ruins. Therefore, Columbia has asked the Department of Food and Resource Economics at University of Copenhagen to help develop co-operative societies (in Danish: andelsselskaber) and collaborations within the farming- and food industry. There are several good reasons why.
Co-operative societies to pave the way for a better cohesion and community
A strengthened collaboration and better co-operative societies are to contribute to rebuilding the cohesion within the population, which the armed conflicted destroyed. There is a need for a strengthened feeling of community and more common projects. Many small farmers request development and not at least access to advice, credit and markets. On top of this, co-operative societies owned by farmers can strengthen the rural population and ensure a better supply chain all the way to the consumers. The co-operative societies can ensure the small-scale farmers a stronger position in relation to the relatively large food companies dominating today.
The ambitions are clear but the challenges are large. Columbia is still characterized by internal instability, corruption and a significant illegal economy. About 48 percent of the Columbian economy is illegal. The ability to- and desire for cooperation is small because the population have been used to protecting themselves without trusting others throughout many years. The co-operative movement is widely based on trust, credibility and cooperation, which is why something close to a change of mentality is required if the establishment- and strengthening of co-operative societies in Columbia is to succeed.
A peace agreement has been signed with FARC but it takes a while for the agreement to take effect in praxis and the wounds after decades of conflict also takes time to heal. In South America, Columbia ranks second in income disparity. The land for farming is also unequally distributed and many farmers do not own any land, which is not exactly beneficial for the development of the farming industry.
Danish visit to make a reality check of the potential of transferring Danish experiences
The advisor on economic growth at the Danish embassy in Bogotá, a number of local businesspeople and Henning Otte Hansen (https://ifro.ku.dk/english/staff/?pure=en/persons/326018), Senior Advisor at the Department of Food and Resource Economics have visited a number of different Columbian agricultural- and food companies, farmers, organizations, research institutions and co-operative societies. There is a great respect for the Danish co-operative societies and the results achieved in Denmark. Therefore, it is understandable, one wish to learn about Danish experiences – and especially whether they can be transferred to Columbia.
The visit ended with two half-day meetings at which, the results from the trip along with suggestions and recommendations were presented to the Columbian hosts. The starting point is on one hand that the Columbian conditions are very different compared to the Danish but on the other hand, there are in several ways similar challenges: The supply chain from farmer to consumer needs to be strengthened, the markets need to be functional and effective, and farmers can strengthen their position by participating in the co-operative societies. Regarding these matters, Danish experiences can be transferred. Additionally, Danish co-operative societies’ clear focus on business and income – both short- and long term – is being noted and acknowledged in Columbia. Conditions such as trust, strategic planning, internationalization, international competitiveness and structural adaptation within the co-operative societies – with a Danish model as the ideal – is also accepted as important parameters in the development of the Columbian food industry.
Next step: Columbian visit to Denmark
17 chosen key-persons from Columbia are to visit the University of Copenhagen in October 2019, at which point they are to participate in a two-week course on co-operative societies and the leadership of co-operative societies. During the visit, follow-ups will be made on the Danish visit to Columbia and the Columbians will have opportunity to learn more about the Danish experiences with co-operative societies within the farming- and food industry in theory and in praxis.
The stage is set for a long-lasting cooperation, within which co-operative society researchers from the university in Bogotá participate. Danida, the Danish embassy in Bogotá and the organization PorkColombia contribute actively in the development of the collaboration.
More information on the armed conflict in Columbia (Danish/Spanish only):