Institutional and governance factors influencing the performance of selected smallholder agricultural cooperatives in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
This dissertation investigates the impact of institutional and governance factors on the performance of 10 selected smallholder agricultural cooperatives (case studies) in KwaZulu- Natal (KZN). All the selected cooperatives were traditionally structured (e.g., one-member, one-vote system). Due to logistical and administrative constraints, the selected smallholder cooperatives were drawn from the EThekwini and UMgungundlovu Districts (the latter comprising of two sub-districts, namely Camperdown and Msunduzi), which incorporate the major cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg. Five of the cooperatives grow and market vegetables, three produce and market poultry, one is a beef production cooperative and another operates a bakery. Information from the interviews suggests that members of the selected smallholder cooperatives do not fully understand cooperative principles and have high expectations of potential benefits of being members. Descriptive analysis of the case studies describes total membership of each selected cooperative; average number of management meetings per month; gender and age composition of cooperative members; the characteristics of chairpersons of these cooperatives (e.g., gender, age and education); the initial capital structure of these cooperatives; annual turnover; growth opportunities; and institutional and governance factors influencing the performance of these cooperatives. The results of a cluster analysis suggest that the performance of the selected smallholder cooperatives is influenced by institutional and governance problems. Institutional problems give rise to low levels of equity and debt capital, reliance on government funding, low levels of investment, and subsequent loss of members. Governance problems are strongly linked to the absence of secret ballot, low levels of education, lack of production and management skills training, weak marketing arrangements and consequent low returns to members as patrons or investors. The conclusion is that appropriate institutional arrangements and good governance are important to the performance of enterprises initiated by groups of smallholders. South Africa’s new Cooperatives Act prevents smallholder cooperatives from adopting good institutional arrangements. Alternative ownership structures such as close corporations and private companies offer better institutional arrangements and opportunities for equity-sharing partnerships.
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