Adel Al-Kartas:  “The Agricultural Cooperative’s Activity in Yemen was established long before the rest of the Arab countries” [Archives:1999/22/Reportage]

May 31 1999

On May 15-19, a seminar on the training of Agricultural Cooperation candidates was held which was attended by Mr. Ahmed Salem Al-Haleily, Minister of Agriculture, Abdulrahman Salem, deputy Minister of Planning, Vice Dean Ahmed Alharbi, Mr. Alsurami, Mr. Ganos, and many others. 
Name: Adel Al-Kartas, Former Minister of Agriculture in Lebanon from 1992 to 1995, prior to that he was in the International Food and Agricultural Organization as an assistant to the head of the social and economical side. He also worked for the organization in Morocco, and was responsible for agricultural planning and marketing to develop the farmers union for three years. 
Q: What are the activities of the agriculture cooperation that you have found in Yemen? 
A: It as a production cooperation, i.e. the cooperation depends upon itself to implement the cooperation’s ideas. They adopt many projects, such as the service security, and there are many successful marketing cooperations. For example, when we took a look at the Sawaan cooperation we can see the activities adopted by the cooperation’s head, who is a member of the farmers union, the cooperations priority is in marketing various agricultural products, especially fruits and vegetables. We can also see that the cooperation has a committee which manages the major projects. There are other kinds of cooperations concerned with loaning to farmers who are members, but their number is very small. The Agricultural Loaning Bank unfortunately could not organize the relationship between itself and the Agricultural cooperation. The cooperation’s role is meant to be leasing this money from the Loaning Bank and distributing them among the small Agricultural Cooperation Unions. That is the most important issue which should be examined by the Agricultural Cooperation. 
Q: Through your studies, in what aspect has this cooperation spread most in Yemen? 
A: We made a survey last December, January and finally in the month of May which resulted in depicting the number of Agricultural cooperations, which were around 326, throughout the country. They were generally concentrated in the governorates of Sanaa, Hadrahmout, and Aden. Unfortunately, the number of Agricultural Cooperation’s were less then our expectations. Therefore the participation of the Cooperation and the Government is very poor. This is our first recommendation, that we should emphasize the ignored parts of Yemen and the distant sections of these three governorates should get the attention which they need. 
Q: What are the obstacles faced by the Agricultural Cooperation Union ? 
A: From my point of view there are many obstacles and hindrances because of training and promotion of the Cooperation itself, which should improve its operations. They should update and adopt new methods of organization and administration. For that reason, we are calling for reestablishing the Cooperative Training Institute in Aden that was established in 1992 as vocational training for people for two years after secondary education, in order to provide them with a Diploma in Cooperative Science. These activities have stopped, we and the government are in great need of these services and we will try to reestablish them in our discussion at the Food and Agricultural organization.  
Q: What suggestions are presented to develop the cooperative work in the form of the legislation sphere? 
A: Regarding the legislative sphere, we have not made any new suggestions because the Laws which were established in 1998 concerning Agricultural Cooperation were acceptable. Some of the suggestions varied from what we presented in December 1998, when we visited Yemen for the first time. The suggestions included these projects, in my opinion the problem is not with the law, as the law has organized the main facts and suggestions but that it should be adopted and encouraged by the government, whereas the continuation has emphasized encouraging the Agricultural Cooperation in Yemen. 
Q: Suggestions for the administrations organization? 
A: We would like to increase the administrations organization and its efficiency, which is one of our major goals at the Agricultural Cooperation Union. From this intention, we have many suggestions to increase the personal and administrative efficiency at the Agricultural Cooperation union. Initially, we are preparing for the agricultural development project with its final definitions so that the Cooperation will possess qualified candidates who can prepare these studies to represent it to the organizations such as the monetary funds, the financing organizations etc. 
Q: For the financial organization side? 
A: We think that accountability should be added to the organization and we should find a system which should be within the Agricultural Cooperation, such as savings in the cooperation and helping the village’s women in order to make the Cooperation form banks for putting their deposits in. This was suggested at the seminar, instead of relying on the limited responsibility of the members in securing loans without referring to financial or tangible bonds. 
Q: The Agricultural Cooperative work is being dominated by the political burden. What do you say about this? 
A: I think that we should not exaggerate this fact, but give it its original size. There is some realization that the politics interferes a lot in the Cooperation’s work, but I think that this kind of talk has some exaggeration. On the contrary, I think that the Cooperative activity in Yemen was established a long time before the rest of the Arab countries. While there are now around 22 cooperative unions in the Arab world, where I think Yemen has a very small number compared to other Arab countries, this does not mean that the Agricultural Cooperations are limited because of the governments interference in its concerns. I think that the government must interfere sometimes because a small child cannot be left to grow without any guidance. I think that the current system followed with the collaboration between the Agricultural Cooperation Union and the Ministry of Agriculture in addition to concerned ministries who take care of the cooperation, such as the ministry of Planning, the Ministry of Insurance and Social Affairs and the Labor Ministry etc. is a genuine system.  
Q: There are many efforts by international organizations such as the GTZ, Agricultural Food Organization, and the World Bank, who have tried to motivate this sector but didn’t succeed, so to what extent are you optimistic in succeeding? 
A: First you have to notice that there are some statements which says that the GTZ isn’t important, the international organization didn’t succeed in this duties, I don’t think that those statements are accurate or correct. On the contrary, these donor organization such as the GTZ projects which are operating in five governorates are acceptable and successful to a wide extent and should proceed. We’ve come to this conclusion after we have gone through their activities. I would also like to add that these kind of activities should be generalized to the rest of the governorates, especially those governorates which are ignored in Yemen, for example those governorates which are away from Sanaa, Hadrahmout or Aden. As we have observed that the concerns about Cooperative Unions become more scarce as we moved away from these major governorates and so here we are calling all Agricultural Cooperative Unions and the Ministries to take care of these ignored parts of the country. 
Q: You have concentrated on your projects sphere, so have you gained any experience and knowledge? 
A: Yes, we have concentrated on training, promoting and teaching new methods in the administration and we noticed that in Yemen there are many acceptable and talented people, especially those who were trained at the former Training Institute in Aden in 1990, where some of the tutors who were teaching at this school have succeeded in administering and organizing these Cooperation’s in Sawaan, Kaa Al-Laben and Amran regions. After seeing these kinds of Agricultural Cooperation in Yemen, we wish to have this kinds of cooperation in the rest of the Arab world, the problem here is not the lack of candidates, but how to find and train them. Some of the training courses, such as those which we held on May 15-19, discovered that those people are very talented but they need to keep on proceeding without stopping . 
By: Khairiya Al-Shabibi 
Yemen Times