CAF-Uruguay: cooperatives discover their role in innovation

Giel Ton and Henri Hocdé

ESFIM supports the Cooperativas Agrarias Federadas, CAF (Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives), which has a constituency of 33 organisations including approximately 12,500 family farms (Agriterra-CAF 2008). CAF is a second-tier cooperative. The member organisations are cooperatives or associations (sociedades de fomento rural) that are involved in collective marketing.

Some of the members of CAF, especially the dairy cooperative Cooperativa Nacional de Productores de Leche (CONAPROLE) and the wool cooperative Central Lanera Uruguaya (CLU), are among the strongest industries in Uruguay. A large part of the membership, however, consists of relatively small players in comparison to the very strong multinational companies that increasingly offer similar services. The strong cooperatives support CAF chiefly as an instrument to obtain favourable agricultural policies, whereas the smaller members also look to CAF for support on organisational issues. The vision statement of CAF emphasises the importance of this representative function:

read more »

ESFIM-Uruguay Documents

Documents and Workshop Reports


El informe preliminar de la investigación sobre Innovación

Este reporte (Reporte preliminar Innovación ESFIM 2012) resume las principales conclusiones y recomendaciones que surgen del relevamiento de campo llevado adelante por el equipo de consultores del proyecto “Apoyo al fortalecimiento de las capacidades de innovación en el sistema cooperativo agroalimentario del Uruguay”. Este reporte resulta del análisis de las entrevistas realizadas por los autores a directivos, gerentes y funcionarios de 18 cooperativas socias de CAF. El trabajo de campo, que fue realizado durante los meses de febrero a abril de 2012, consistió en la casi totalidad de los casos de visitas a cada cooperativa con entrevistas personales a un directivo actual, el gerente, un socio de trayectoria (directivo o no) y un funcionario en contacto directo con los socios. Para las entrevistas se siguió un cuestionario de preguntas mayormente abiertas. En tres secciones que componen este reporte, se presenta: (i) un análisis de los principales cambios en el sector agropecuario con particular énfasis en el negocio que operan las cooperativas de CAF. Segundo, las principales conclusiones entorno a las innovaciones realizadas por las cooperativas. Tercero se esbozan las recomendaciones iniciales para reforzar y potenciar las innovaciones y la capacidad adaptativa de la cooperativas agrarias uruguayas.


Performance and dynamics of Uruguayan Cooperatives

The survey on belongingness of cooperatives members with their organization has been analyzed in more detail in the MSc thesis of Sabrina Samson. She analyzed a random sample of nine cooperatives. As part of the ESFIM-Program, the study focused on “Finance, capitalization and membership of cooperatives”, related to difficulties of Uruguayan cooperatives to generate their own capital. This problem can be stretched out even further, since in case of lending, the bank requires collateral, which in Uruguay is common to be provided by the board members personally. Through this, board members are discouraged to engage in more dynamic business strategies. A weak sense of belonging of members to the cooperatives can makes the cooperative functioning inefficient. The research objective of this study was to evaluate the social and economic performance of Uruguayan cooperatives by mapping differences between cooperatives and their members in relation to their perceptions on the performance of the cooperative’s service provisioning and internal governance systems. The study used a mixed design of qualitative and quantitative research methods on a random sample of Uruguayan cooperatives. Through Principal Component analysis two social performance indicators were distilled from the questionnaire, and compared with three economic performance indicators: return on equity, turnover per member and leverage of external capital.

Download the entire document: Performance and Dynamics of Uruguayan Cooperatives

read more »