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close this bookFood from Dryland Gardens - An Ecological, Nutritional, and Social Approach to Small Scale Household Food Production (CPFE, 1991)
close this folderPart I - Gardens as a development strategy
close this folder3. Gardens, economics, and marketing
close this folder3.4 Marketing garden produce
View the document(introduction...)
View the document3.4.1 Women and Marketing
View the document3.4.2 Risk, Investment, and Return
View the document3.4.3 Cooperation
View the document3.4.4 Garden Income and the Household

3.4.3 Cooperation

Working together often reduces the risks of marketing, especially for poor gardeners. Cooperation does not necessarily eliminate competition in selling produce, but it can help prevent concentration of the benefits of marketing in the hands of a few. Projects to support market gardening frequently include the establishment of formal cooperatives with elected officials.

In Botswana, a small group of gardeners, most of them poor women (29 women and 4 men), joined together in 1981 to create a formal group under the Ministry of Agriculture called the Tshwaragano Vegetable Production Group (section 3.4.1).52 Group members pay a small annual fee and elect a grower’s committee, the group’s governing body. While each gardener controls her or his own plot, the group establishes and implements rules for participation in the garden and it negotiates with individuals and organizations outside the group for such things as transport to market and technical assistance. In addition to the individual plots whose profits go entirely to the plot holder, some areas are worked collectively. The profits from the sale of this produce are added to the annual fees and used to purchase tools and cow and chicken manure for fertilizer.

Traditional community groups, such as those based on age, may provide the basis for either formal or informal garden cooperatives. Informal cooperation is common among friends, relatives, neighbors, and residents of a community. An example of informal cooperation can be seen among the Hausa market gardeners in northern Nigeria described in section To minimize the risks of local markets being glutted, they sell their goods in groups made up of close male friends who are often relatives. These men put their goods together to be sold as a package to a middleperson. Everyone in the group receives the same per unit price for their goods. With this arrangement they do not have to compete with each other, which would lower the returns many would receive, and might even prevent some gardeners from selling anything.

Groups of market gardeners from rural areas outside of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, made contracts with groups of residents in the city to supply pesticide-free fresh produce.54 The gardeners bypassed the middlepeople who had forced them to use chemical insecticides and fertilizers, and the city residents got healthier produce. Both groups realized the necessity for political organization to make such arrangements work.

Market gardeners can cooperate in producing or processing goods from the garden; watching over and selling the goods of another gardener who cannot come to the market; agreeing on a minimum price below which they will not sell a particular good; or uniting to negotiate with truck drivers, middlepeople, merchants, and others. An example of women gardeners in Senegal joining to form a cooperative for providing transport of their garden produce to market is described in section 15.8.2.

Whatever the form, cooperation can provide support for group members and a stronger voice for pursuing needs and interests that group members share.