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In 2014, Cooperatives for Change (C4C): Value Chain Approach for Cooperative Development project facilitated a pilot seed multiplication business arrangement between Melka Awash Farmers’ Cooperative Union and Acos Ethiopia PLC, a leading pulse export company.

Motivated by the initiative other farmers’ cooperative unions and ACOS Ethiopia PLC are expanding the adoption and multiplication of Acos Dube chickpea, larger seeds, and additional crops such as dark red kidney beans into more woredas.

As a result, on 22 July 2014, Becho Woliso Farmers’ Cooperative Union entered made an agreement with Acos Ethiopia PLC to multiply the Acos Dube chickpea variety at scale; thus enhancing the capacity of member farmers as well as their organization through the transfer of market and agronomy knowledge.

The Union agreed to receive and pay back 200 quintals of seed two weeks after harvesting. This allows the Union in turn to provide input to the farmers and produce a minimum of 1,285 quintals of Acos Dube chickpeas worth around US$900,000.

“Acos Ethiopia PLC wishes Ethiopian farmers to become competitors in the ACOS Dube export market as the huge international demand helps the country in earning additional foreign currency” stated Kasshaun Bekele, General Manager of Acos Ethiopia PLC.

Before distributing, the company dresses the seed to make it more resistant to worms.  Kasshaun invited the FCU to send its agronomist and lead farmers to acquire the necessary skills as well as transfer the knowledge to others.

Following up on the invitation, the Farmers’ Cooperative Union General Manager Dejene Hirpa promised to assign competent farmers.

“These farmers will cascade the knowledge to a larger group. It is very important to build our quality grading capacity,” remarked Dejene.   

The multi-purpose union Becho Woliso gained experience and information from its neighbour - Melka Awash Farmers’ Cooperative Union - which insisted in keeping the multiplied seed for the coming planting season despite the market guarantee from ACOS Ethiopia.

“Becho Woliso will use a different modality.  Instead of the union, experienced and trusted model farmers will multiply and deliver the seed” explained Dechasa Adguna, Board Chairman of the Union.

While cooperatives are striving to produce quality seeds, Acos Ethiopia PLC and Debre Zeit Research Centre (a leading chickpea centre) will render agronomy support whereas SNV under the Cooperatives for Change project covers the cost of crop insurance to minimise the risk against climate and non-climate shocks.

“C4C works to make the unions competitive in the value chain. We are happy to witness that the negotiation skills of the cooperatives is enhancing. Becho Woliso actively responded to the business opportunity at hand and expressed its commitment to deliver,” said Eyerusalem Regassa, Business Linkages Advisor, SNV Ethiopia.

The project is engaging additional cooperative unions in accessing improved inputs such as larger size seed which will fetch better prices - a rewarding but demanding business. Farmers’ Cooperative Union is expected to harvest 3,000 quintal of ACOS Dube in the year 2015 and double this amount the year after.

SNV Ethiopia and Agriterra, through the Cooperatives for Change Project and with funding from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, are assisting 15 cooperative unions in the Oromia and Amhara regions in cooperative management, value chain development and marketing.

SNV Ethiopia, committed to supporting the Government of Ethiopia in its effort to enable cooperatives to play a significant role in the economy, provide business services and act as a link between farmers and the private sector