The role of cooperatives in sustaining the livelihoods of rural communities: The case of rural cooperatives in Shurugwi District, Zimbabwe
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The main focus of the research was to analyse the role of cooperatives in sustaining the livelihoods of local rural communities in Shurugwi District in Zimbabwe. Descriptive survey design was used in this mixed method approach to the study. A questionnaire, interviews and observation methods were employed as the main research instruments. Purposive sampling technique was adopted and data were collected from government officials and from members of the six cooperatives in Shurugwi District. A total of 50 research participants were involved in the study. It was found that cooperatives were established as a strategy to sustain livelihoods of rural communities. With the adoption of cooperatives, people in the rural communities managed to generate employment, boost food production, empower the marginalised, especially women, and promote social cohesion and integration, thereby improving their livelihoods and reducing poverty. Most cooperatives face a number of challenges that include lack of financial support, poor management and lack of management skills, and lack of competitive markets to sell their produce. The study recommends that the government and the banking sector render financial support to cooperatives in rural communities to allow them to expand and diversify their business operations; constant training on leadership and management skills is provided to cooperatives’ members. There is also a need for cooperatives, especially those in the agricultural sector, to form some producer associations so as to easily market their produce. Lastly, the study recommends that future research should focus on investigating issues that hinder the growth of the cooperative movement in rural communities of Zimbabwe. It is hoped that policy-makers, the academia and communities would benefit from the study.