Roles of cooperatives in Junar development
In Nepal citrus including Junar has been traditionally grown as the most important fruit crops. However, absence of proper cultivation practices and post-harvest management have resulted in severe tree decline and low productivity in the recent years. Without science based knowledge and skills transfer, production and productivity of any crop including Junar cannot be increased. Therefore, technical knowhow and skills up-gradation of extension workers and farmers through training is one of the most immediate needs for addressing this problem. Then only a successful transfer of appropriate technology to the citrus growing farmers and entrepreneurs is possible. In order to enhance the technical capacity of extension workers, resource persons, entrepreneurs and lead farmers in the production and post-harvest management of Junar, a comprehensive information on Junar has been long felt need of the concerned stakeholders. Realizing this need, the Junar Central cooperative Union Ltd. also requested Mr.Bhairab Raj Kaini, who has more than 10 years’ working experience in Junar and played a key role in Junar development of Nepal, to write Package of Practices for Junar Production and Post-harvest Management book. Based on research and more than 40 years of practical experience of farmers. To providing modern technical packages of practices in simple easy-to-understand language with illustrative photos and pictures. Technical information generated by the research and development institutions in Nepal and neighboring countries has been largely incorporated and duly acknowledged. I believe that the extension workers, resource persons, and entrepreneurs who are close to the clients and provide them training, will find this book and information helpful in transfer of technology and carrying out training programs related to citrus in general and Junar in particular. Due to nutritional importance and more income per unit of land, the business of Junar production and marketing is in increasing trends at domestic markets.
The other responsible factors to increase demands of Junar in Nepal are the increasing number of educated population, tourist inflow, and social change and food habits. As demands are increasing in the markets, farmers are attracted to grow this crop for their better livelihoods. Junar enterprise has increased the possibility of generating employment and income. The cost/benefit ratios of Junar are much better than those of cereal crops. These types of benefits have considerably increased the social acceptability of this crop and resulted in the shifting from cereal based cropping system to the Junar based cropping system, especially in areas where there are roads and markets access. The production of Junar fruits is continuously increasing since the last many years. However, the rate of increase in fruit production is not that significant as it should be. Most of the farmers involved in the production of horticultural crops are small and poor. Their land holding size is also small as well as fragmented. The average size of land holding in Nepal is 0.70 hectare. Not only the average size of holding is small but there is also disparity in the size of holding. Almost 92 percent of the total holders shared only about 69 percent of the land devoted to agriculture. The majority of households fall under small farmers' group with holding of less than 0.5 ha. In contrast, less than one percent holders operate 7.3 percent of the total area. Regarding the fragmentation of land, the average number of parcels per holding is 3.3 and the average size of the parcel is 0.24 ha or 240 square meters. In a country like Nepal, where more than 80 percent farmers are small and their lands are too much fragmented, commercialization of horticulture including Junar is not possible without cooperatives. There are many farmers' groups already involved in production and marketing of Junar. In order to make these and newly formed groups more effective and well organized, their cooperatization is essential. Some farmers' groups are already cooperatized and some are in the process of cooperatization. Cooperatives can play vital roles in Junar development by supporting production, processing and marketing activities. The support of cooperatives in the production of Junar can be through:
(1) the supply of production inputs, such as seeds, seedlings, plant nutrients, and horticultural equipments;
(2) providing extension services to the farmers;
(3) adding value to the product by improving post-harvest management and processing;
(4) providing market assurance of the produce. For small and poor farmers, who are scattered here and there, firstly it is not possible to have individual access to production inputs and secondly, the input costs become very high even if they approach individually for these inputs.
Regarding extension services, the government, at present, has been able to cover less than 20 percent areas by its extension network. It indicates that majority of the farmers are not getting direct extension services from the government extension agents. Similarly, NGOs and private agencies are also providing extension services, mostly, to the farmers of accessible and limited areas. Under such situations, agricultural cooperatives can play a very vital role in providing extension services to the farmers of those areas where other extension agents are not present. For this, agricultural cooperatives should give priority to train its members as extension workers and the government should support cooperatives in this effort. Furthermore, local extension workers are found very effective to work under conflict situation. Therefore, providing extension services through local cooperatives could be an appropriate modality of extension in the present context of Nepal. As Junar fruits are perishable, farmers hesitate to produce them unless there is market assurance for their products. For this, the production areas should be closed to the market and there should be agricultural roads connecting these areas to the markets. But such kinds of conditions are rarely available for Nepalese farmers. Most of the production areas are scattered; the farmers are small and poor; production volume is small; and there is no connecting road between production areas and markets. Under such situations, individual farmer cannot have market access and hence, agricultural cooperatives should help them. When produces of small farmers are collected by the cooperative in a business volume, it becomes possible to reduce marketing cost and the bargaining power of farm produce is also increased. Another important role that the cooperatives can and should play in the context of Junar development is the processing of fresh produce.
In order to prolong the period of availability, satisfy the demands of consumers, and add value to the products, the processing of fresh produce is essential. Processing for the market requires high initial investment and skills. Small farmers cannot do processing in commercial scale without the support of cooperatives. Some private companies have started processing various horticultural products including Junar. But, most of them are not buying raw materials for processing from the Nepalese farmers. Therefore, it has become necessary for cooperatives to come forwards in this venture so that local farmers and consumers also get benefits from processing. More to this, cooperatives have good faith in the markets. In developed countries, like South Korea and Japan, the marketing and processing of horticultural produces are mostly done through cooperatives. Cooperatives can also play the role of providing financial services to their members. Credit provided by the cooperative to its member should have low interest rates and simple lending procedures. Mutual credit provided by cooperatives to its needy members enables them to be self-helped. In Nepal the cooperative movement was started from the beginning of the first five years plan in 1956. The first cooperative act was enforced in 1959 and amended in 1992. At present, there are 9362 primary cooperatives registered in the Department of Cooperative, out of which 1192 are agricultural cooperatives including horticulture and 2402 multipurpose cooperatives. Besides the Department of Cooperative, there is one Cooperative Development Board and one Federation of Cooperatives at the central level to facilitate the cooperative functions. Despite these arrangements and long history of cooperative movement, the experience of Nepal on the performance of cooperatives is not good. One of the main reasons for such poor performance of cooperatives in the past was that cooperatives were created and managed by the government, especially those cooperatives established before 1990. But after the enforcement of the cooperative act, 1992, many agricultural cooperatives are established by and for farmers and some of them are functioning very effectively. Agricultural cooperatives, which are established in self-initiation of farmers and have activities that provide quick economic returns, are performing better. In the context of Junar, there are hundreds of cooperatives involved in Junar business. Processing and marketing are other thematic areas of Junar where cooperatives should involve interest in the future. But, reforms of cooperatives in their organizational structures and management, skills and determination of their managers and other staff, and promotion of members' interest are the basic elements which determine the success of any cooperatives in Junar business.