The study examined the Performance of Farmers’ Multipurpose Cooperative Societies (FMCS) in Enugu North Agricultural zone of Enugu State, Nigeria. Purposive and proportional sampling techniques were used to collect primary data from 30 FMCS through their chairmen. The analytical techniques involved both descriptive and inferential statistics. It was revealed that 46.7% of the cooperative had between 31 and 50 members (i.e. cooperators). About 47% of FMCS had less than N 200,000.00 annual savings from members. About 37% of the selected FMCS had between 16 and 20 years of existence (i.e. cooperative age). The greatest percentage (93.3%) of the selected FMCS was registered with the appropriate Government agency. About 43% of the FMCS had a total share of not more than N 1,000,000.00. Many of the FMCS (60%) in the study area received assistance one time or the other from government. Majority of the leaders of FMCS (73.3%) were males and 83.3% of them had formal education. It was revealed that 33.3% of the selected FMCS had good performance, 40% of them performed poorly and 26.7% of the FMCS performed moderately. The multinomial logit regression analysis comparing moderate performance as base outcome, showed that cooperative years of existence (i.e. cooperative age) , and years of formal education of the chairmen had positive and significant relationship with good/high performance at (p<0.001) and (p<0.0.05) respectively. Government assistance had negative and significant relationship with poor/low performance of the FMCS at (p<.0.05). The study also looked into the constraints hindering effective performance of FMCS in the study area. These constraints were inadequate storage facilities, inadequate capital, inadequate commitment of members, too much intervention of Government and poor management by officials among others. Therefore, any assistance inform of training and other support from government and NGOs should be based on the issue of years of existence of the FMCS and not on political affiliations as it seems to be presently for the FMCS to perform optimally in the study area.

Agriculture constitutes a significant sector of Nigeria’s economy. The sector is significant in terms of employment of labour, contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and until early 1970, agricultural exports were the main sources of foreign exchange earnings (Amaza, 2002). During the 1960’s the growth of the Nigerian economy was derived mainly from the agricultural sector. However, in more recent years, there has been a marked deterioration in the performance of Nigeria’s agriculture. The contribution of agriculture to the GDP which stood at an average of 56% in 1960 – 1964 declined to 47% in 1965, 1969 and more rapidly to 32% in 1996 – 1998 (Amaza, 2002).
Smallholder agriculture is the dominant occupation of rural Nigerians. The rural dwellers earn low income from their economic activities and as a result they save less. Low savings bring about low investment which leads to low capital formation (Umebali, 2004). Based on the foregoing, the rural dwellers are poor (Umebali, 2004). Evidence in Nigeria reveals that the number of those in poverty is on the increase. The number of those in poverty increased from 27% in 1980 to 46% in 1985. It declined slightly to 42% in 1992. In 1999, it was estimated that more than 70% of Nigerians lived in poverty (Ogwumike, 2005). Therefore, reducing rural poverty has been on the agenda of international development agencies as well as governmental and non-governmental organizations for a long time.

It should however, be noted that poverty is largely caused by inadequate access to productive resources such as land for the majority of producers and low productivity of agriculture resulting in low levels of income. The formation of cooperative societies has since been recognized as one possible way of promoting access to production resources and markets in rural areas (Hoyt, 1989; Ortmann and King, 2007).
Different authors and agencies have defined cooperatives in different ways, For instance, the Federal Department of Cooperatives in its official newsletter “AGRICOOP-101”, writes that a cooperative society is a voluntary association of persons having a mutual interest in providing themselves some needed services on a non-profit basis. It further adds that a cooperative society is organized as a legal entity to accomplish an economic objective through joint participation of its members. Chukwu (1990) defines cooperative as a democratically controlled business i.e. it is owned and controlled by the members and gives benefits to the members. The International Cooperative Alliance (ICA, 2010) defined a cooperative as “an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly – owned and democratically controlled enterprise”.

The definitions of cooperative societies are often supplemented with the distinguishing features of seven cooperative principles adopted by ICA. These are: voluntary and open membership, democratic member control, member economic participation, autonomy and independence, education, training and information, cooperation among cooperatives , and concern for community. Cooperative societies function on the basis of the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, cooperative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others (ICA, 1995).
The Agricultural cooperative organization in contemporary Nigeria, is geared towards increasing production by the utilization of mechanized agriculture through the village group farming cooperative (Arua, 1988). The cooperative movement is significant both in terms of....

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