The National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA) is the oldest not-for-profit cooperative development organization in the United States. NCBA’s CLUSA International program (CLUSA) is a dynamic organization with a mission to alleviate poverty through economic empowerment. With 60 years of successful, high-impact international development experience, CLUSA is a globally recognized leader in organizing people to help themselves and a thought leader in applying cooperative strategies to development. With a home office staff of 30 in Washington D.C., numerous professional expatriate staff and some 700 host country national professional and administrative staff, CLUSA designs and manages programs that are market oriented, achieving tangible results with realistic and responsible processes that ensure true, long-term sustainable development. The CLUSA team possesses a wealth of practical experience and demonstrated success in managing its diverse portfolio.
Based on the seven cooperative principles, the “CLUSA Approach” asserts that the clients are the decision makers when it comes to confronting their communities’ most pressing development problems. Central to this approach is the empowerment of people to articulate, promote and manage sustainable, locally generated solutions. CLUSA focuses its development approach in results-driven programming across multiple sectors including Food Security and Agriculture, Natural Resource Management, Community Based Health and Democracy and Governance.
Since the 1940’s, NCBA has been involved in the promotion of the spirit of cooperation domestically and overseas, through CLUSA International Program. Out history includes work through several hundred projects in more than 80 countries. Early in the history, NCBA/CLUSA focused primarily on creating and strengthening cooperative businesses overseas, but in recent decades, NCBA/CLUSA has broadened the focus to work with groups and group-enterprises in many different sectors to utilize their newly found strength as a group to improve its members’ lives.
NCBA/CLUSA works in the following sectors: Cooperative Development, Agriculture and Food Security, Democracy and Governance, Natural Resource Management (NRM), Community-Based Health, and through USAID’s Farmer-to-Farmer Program.
NCBA/CLUSA’s comparative advantage stems from the organization of effective grassroots institutions, through the expert guidance of the professional staff empowering the groups to create change, are they agricultural cooperatives, village health committees, civil society organizations, or resource management committees. NCBA/CLUSA’s work in institutional capacity building provides an invaluable mechanism to achieve sustainable results, leading to long term positive change for people all over the world.
Cooperative Development Program
Cooperatives, businesses that are democratically owned and governed by those they serve, are powerful tools for local development. NCBA/CLUSA’s approach to cooperative development is premised on the belief that local ownership and broad participation empowers communities to address their most pressing economic and social needs in a sustainable fashion. NCBA/CLUSA’s activities range from helping groups establish new cooperatives and other group enterprises, to building institutional capacity of these businesses and to enhancing the scale and visibility of cooperatives and other member owned businesses.
An enabling environment is crucial to allow cooperative enterprises to flourish. In many countries, NCBA works with local people to eliminate legal and regulatory constraints that hinder cooperative and other member-owned businesses from competing effectively within the private sector. NCBA teaches cooperators how to conduct constructive advocacy campaigns to lobby for alternative laws and regulations that benefit cooperatives. NCBA facilitates and encourages cross-sector coalitions to increase cooperative leveraging power and defines and promotes best practices and international standards for effective cooperative legislation and for the measurement of cooperative business success.
NCBA enhances the scale and salience of cooperatives by building the organizational capacity of cooperative businesses and associations so that their members can achieve their economic and social goals. Cooperative enterprises, their managers and members obtain business and governance skills that help ensure their cooperatives are profitable and self-sustaining. Regional programs also assist cooperative businesses to expand their market access to local markets and export markets.
Agriculture and Food Security
CLUSA takes a market approach to agriculture and food security and implements solutions that provide long term sustainability and which respond to articulated market needs. CLUSA provides organizational capacity building skills and training that allows farmers across the world to become less reliant on subsistence agriculture and to increasingly become participants in successful agricultural businesses.
In any particular country or zone, CLUSA tailors its programs according to the degree of organization of local farmers and the dynamism of local markets. In areas characterized by weak farmer organization and low market dynamism, CLUSA focuses on building and strengthening 1st tier and 2nd tier producer groups that are founded on cooperative principles. Improved organization leads to increasing economies of scale, which in turn allows Farmers to access cheaper inputs, credit and improved agricultural technologies. Ultimately, these improved inputs result in increased agricultural production. To facilitate the adoption of enhanced agricultural practices, CLUSA employs farmer field school approach, building on existing farmer networks and employing local “lead farmers” as key trainers.
In countries with high levels of market dynamism and strong farmer organization, CLUSA strengthens agri-businesses by improving their access to more sophisticated financial services and real time market information, and helping them penetrate into global markets. CLUSA also helps promote the creation of viable BDS and agricultural service providers, such as tilling, spraying or irrigation providers, that can respond to needs within specific commodity value chains.
With regard to food security, CLUSA believes that good governance is an essential to any sustainable food security approach. CLUSA therefore works to link local communities and local governments together in a partnership where they can together examine local nutritional needs, identify appropriate crops to respond to these needs and plan for production and distribution.
Democracy and Governance
NCBA/CLUSA bases its Democracy and Governance program on the notion that thriving democracies result from a dynamic partnership of citizens and government, working together to identify and solve their problems.
NCBA/CLUSA’s work in this area emphasizes four key principles
-Democratic governance grows strongest from the base
-Citizen participation should result in tangible benefits
-Good governance is about improving people’s lives
-Engaged government benefits from enhanced trust and support
By constraining the work to these principles, NCBA/CLUSA strengthens the internal capacity of civil society organizations (CSOs) by providing valuable skills training in literacy, leadership, citizen participation techniques, and advocacy. This empowers the CSOs with the organizational skills and confidence the citizens need to interact with local governments.
Processes emphasize local community leadership, self-assessment, experiential training in mobilization and advocacy, and achievement by setting realistic results.
Simultaneously, NCBA/CLUSA provides training and technical assistance to local governments, which enhances their ability to engage effectively with these CSOs. NCBA/CLUSA designs the training to enhance transparency, ensure accountability and instill trust in the government.
Some of the modules NCBA/CLUSA typically delivers include:
-Developing transparent governance processes
-How to improve planning and management
-Foundational knowledge of organization development
-How to set priorities
-How to develop a budget and cost-recovery techniques
Natural Resource Management
In many developing countries, natural resources have been under state control since the colonial period. The exclusion of communities from natural resource management activities has contributed to the detrimental practices that have resulted in the severe degradation of the natural environment.
In 1985, NCBA/CLUSA began training local communities in the management of their natural resources, long before such an approach was widely accepted. While other NRM programs focused on the technical approach to the conservation of resources, NCBA/CLUSA adopted a holistic approach that includes promoting the voice of the local community in the governance of resources and maximizing revenues from sustainable commerce in NRM products to encourage a local stake in effective management.
The presence of strong local institutions is critical to ensuring sustainable NRM systems. Therefore, NCBA/CLUSA focuses on creating and strengthening three types of institutions that are essential to successful NRM outcomes: group businesses (cooperatives), conservation management organizations, and civil society organizations (CSO).
Viable group businesses allow farmers to benefit from economies of scale, improve their household incomes, and gain access to techniques and technologies that mitigate adverse impacts on the environment. NRM committees guide and oversee resource utilization and ensure sustainable production. CSOs provide local people with a voice in the governance of local resources and promote a local stake in revenue generating activities. Together, these three types of organizations act in concert to create a comprehensive system for effective conservation and management.
NCBA/CLUSA is based on the perspectives that truly beneficial health services and real behavior change must emanate from within the community itself in order to be sustainable; and that solutions to health problems are most effective when local people participate in identifying and solving their communities’ most pressing health problems. Working with community members to design and implement low-cost solutions to realize better community health is a significant part of NCBA/CLUSA’s international work.
NCBA/CLUSA’s interventions focus on expanding access to health services by creating and strengthening community-based institutions and introducing highly effective processes to structure collaboration between communities and local service providers. NCBA/CLUSA’s approach integrates community organization, cooperative and participative governance, small business development and management, and health service delivery through group enterprises. The staff helps communities establish effective and financially viable grassroots institutions that provide a mechanism to identify and reach consensus on local health priorities and participate in problem solving. These community-based health organizations also raise local revenues that finances local health initiatives. NCBA/CLUSA builds the capacity of these institutions by transferring skills in leadership, community mobilization, organizational governance, cooperative development for income generation, and health service delivery.
Farmer to Farmer
NCBA/CLUSA’s Farmer-to-Farmer (FTF) Program provides short term volunteers who provide technical assistance to farmers, farm groups, and agribusinesses in Senegal in the areas of food security and agriculture. Through this USAID-funded program volunteers provided assistance and training in processing, production and marketing to the targeted populations.
NCBA/CLUSA’s FTF program generally draws on the expertise of volunteers from NCBA’s domestic membership, which includes over 300 large cooperatives involved in the areas of agriculture, finance, insurance, energy, technology and housing. However, volunteers from outside NCBA’s membership may also participate if they have the needed skills. Typically, volunteers are not international development professionals, but rather are individuals active in domestic cooperatives or other U.S. agribusiness firms who have valuable skills and are available to spend anywhere from three to six weeks in West Africa helping a local group increase its organizational capacity and improve production. NCBA/CLUSA’s FTF program provides training and logistical and financial support for each volunteer’s mission while in the country. NCBA/CLUSA staff in Senegal travel with the volunteer to provide logistical and translation services.
NCBA/CLUSA’s FTF program is designed to improve the value chains for targeted commodities that have the potential to impact food security or that can increase household revenues, providing farmers with the needed cash to purchase food.