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HISTORY AND THEORY OF CO-OPERATIVES

Author: Maria Treneva

 

MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE AND FOODS

The history of today's Ministry of Agriculture and Foods starts back in 1879, when in pursuance of Article 161 of the Constitution, as adopted by the Founding National Assembly in Veliko Tarnovo provided for the establishment of seven ministries, including the Ministry of Common Buildings, Agriculture and Trade. After vehement discussions the first National Assembly voted that the number of the ministries will be six, whereas the ministry of common buildings, agriculture and trade, in the words of Petko Karavelov, "will integrate as it may be proper". Thus, in pursuance of Decree № 23 of 9 August 1879, the administration of the agricultural affairs in the Principality of Bulgaria was put under the helm of the Ministry of Finance, which formed an internal unit for state property along with raw materials. Its sub-governor was appointed to be Ivan Goshev.

In pursuance of Decree № 463 of 1882, there is a second attempt to found the Ministry of Common Buildings, Agriculture and Trade, but two and a half years later its functions are terminated on the grounds of being incompliant with the superimposing provisions of the Tarnovo Constitution.

The Fourth Great National Assembly suggested an amendment to the Tarnovo Constitution with regard also to Article 161 defining the number of the Bulgarian ministries. Hence, issue 107 of the State Gazette dated 25 May 1893 promulgates proclamation of Tsar Ferdinand to the Bulgarian People for the establishment of the first legal Ministry of Trade and Agriculture. In pursuance of Decree № 5 dated 19 November 1893, Panayot Slavkov was appointed its first minister. Immediately after stepping into office, Minister Slavkov submitted for consideration at the National Assembly 2 bills — First, planning the funds required for the structural organization of the Ministry of Trade and Agriculture, and Second bill that provided for the allotment of interest-free funds to poor farmers and farms suffering from hailstorm. The competences of the newly established the Ministry of Trade and Agriculture cover the majority of national economic sectors, such as agriculture, cattle breeding, forests, waters, mines, crafts, industry, domestic and international trade, professional agricultural and crafts schools.

In 1895 the ministry indulged also with social policy, by forming agricultural funds whose administration and management was in the hands of the ministry itself. After the establishment of the Bulgarian Agricultural Bank in 1904, the ministry took the control and supervision of the bank's activities as well.

With the amendment of the Tarnovo Constitution in 1911, the Ministry of Trade and Agriculture was closed and replaced with the Ministry of Agriculture and State Property. It was headed by Dimitar Hristov, the last minister of the previous Ministry of Trade and Agriculture. The organizational structure of the new ministry included 6 directorates — agriculture, veterinary, forests, hunting and fishing, waters and state property.

In its almost 100 years history, the Ministry of Agriculture included as leaders some of the most prominent Bulgarian politicians — Dragan Tsankov, Petko Karavelov, Grigor Nachovich, Ivan Geshov, Andrey Liapchev, Rayko Daskalov, Konstantin Velichkov, etc.

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FACULTY OF AGRICULTURE

Higher agrarian education was launched in 1921 when the Faculty of Agronomy was opened at Sofia University "St. Kliment Ohridski" and training in two majors started — Animal Husbandry and Plant Growing. The Agricultural Academy was established following a decree of the Council of Ministers dated 17 Sep 1948 to be joined by four faculties from Sofia University— the Faculty of Agronomy, Zooengineering, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine.

Well-known scientists have taken part in the training of animal science students, such as Prof. Zhelyo Ganchev, Prof. Yanaki Mollov, Prof. Georgi Hlebarov, Prof. Kiril Bratanov, Prof. Nikola Platikanov, the world-renowned writer Dimitar Dimov, etc.

In 1974 the Faculties of Zooengineering and Veterinary Medicine were relocated from Sofia to Stara Zagora and the first higher educational institution was established in the city — the Higher Institute of Zooengineering and Veterinary Medicine. In 1983 the Faculty of Zootechnics was renamed Faculty of Zooengineering, in 1992 — Faculty of Agriculture and Animal Science and in 1996 — Faculty of Agriculture. That was necessitated by the introduction of new majors related to agricultural production. Since 1995 the Faculty of Agriculture has been within the scope of Trakia University, Stara Zagora.

The Faculty of Agriculture is accredited by the National Assessment and Accreditation Agency with the participation of international experts and that entitles it to train students in the above majors in the educational and qualification degrees of Specialist, Bachelor, Master and Doctor. Modern and alternative training methods, student mobility in the higher school in the county and abroad are applied in the Faculty of Agriculture.

The students from the Faculty of Agriculture are able to make use of training and experimental facilities with fields, farms for cattle, sheep, goats, swine, poultry, rabbits, bees, equine facility with race-course, herpetology laboratory, etc. The students are also able to have partial training on the basis of partial mobility in foreign universities under various programmes.

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AGRICULTURAL ECONOMICS IN BULGARIA

Agricultural economics education in Bulgaria had eighty years tradition and experience. There are three periods of historical development and experience of agricultural economics education until 1990:

— from 1921-1949 in Sofia State University;

— from 1949-1976 in Higher Agricultural Institute in Sofia;

— from 1976-1995 in Higher Economics Institute in Sofia.

Agricultural economics education in Bulgaria had eighty years tradition and experience. The first higher agricultural department in Bulgaria have been established in 1921 in Sofia State University. In the period before Second World War the department worked out lectures and scientific programs with high qualification obtained in European universities. This was main reason for successful adaptation and utilization of knowledge from well known scientific schools. The number of agricultural economics programs increased and improved education of management and marketing problems ensued.

In 1936 the Bulgarian Agricultural Economics Institute was founded in Sofia.

In 1949 the Higher Agricultural Institute was established with three faculties of Agronomy, Zootechnics and Veterinary Medicine.

In 1976 the Bulgarian government decided to reform agricultural education and founded two new higher institutes — High Agricultural Institute in Plovdiv and High Institute for Zootechnica and Veterinary Medicine in Stara Zagora. The faculty of Agricultural Economics was established in Higher Economics Institute in Sofia together with Industrial Economics and Transport Economics faculties.

The brief overview of historical development of agricultural education creates prerequisites for several main conclusions:

— In the first period (before 1949) agricultural economics education was developed as part of agricultural education and additional tutoring preparation for agronomist and zootechnicist with economics knowledge;

— Creation of big cooperatives and state farms in the second period (1949-1990) and separation of technological and management functions were required to develop agricultural economics education as independent specialty;

— Agrarian reform and new private farming demanded introduction of new subjects and concerns into education.

The results from agricultural economics education was 5 subjects in state universities and 2 subjects in private universities. The boom that established different economics programs and various economics colleges enforced the Ministry of Education and Science to regulate economics education. Since the implementation of the Higher Education Law (1995) economics curricula in the different universities have become similar, because of introduction of general criteria, requirements and uniform standards.

Program accreditation involved a complex evaluation of the quality of the educational process and research within a single program. It included a number of grades, mainly concerning educational content, methods of teaching, teaching staff, research, modes of teaching, exams, students' grades and their future performance. During the last ten years agricultural economics education has been developed with regard to Bulgaria's integration with the European Union. The oldest agricultural economics subjects from the University of National and World Economy were involved into new programs — Agricultural Policy, Rural Development, Agrarian Marketing, Agrarian Management, Economics and Management of Family Farms and others.

The fundamental challenge facing Central and Eastern Europe's agricultural educational system is to transform itself from a system that worked under central planning to one that works under market conditions. Organizational changes and transformation is an extremely difficult process.

The reform of agricultural economics education is part of an overall effort to modernize higher education. A new, more competitive, way of financing education has been created and the universities have begun playing an increased role in agricultural research.

As with research, close working relationships between agricultural education institutions and extension systems are indispensable in order to ensure the relevance and contribution of agricultural education. However, the involvement of agricultural education institutions in extension and community programs is often limited. Even in those countries where extension and agricultural education are not separated into different ministries, the lack of resources and linking mechanisms greatly limits joint activities.

Experience shows that institutions of agricultural education can play a vital role in bringing about changes in peoples' attitudes and practices so that they are more environmentally responsible. Developed countries have for some time included environmental concerns in their teaching curricula, research activities and outreach programs. Current practice in agricultural education in Bulgaria does not demonstrate widespread integration of environmental and sustainable agriculture topics into academic programs. Rather, these topics are added piecemeal to existing curricula, if at all.

Three main issues can be identified which affect the challenge of integrating environmental and sustainable development themes or issues into agricultural economics education programs:

First, such issues are complex and diverse. They involve social, cultural, political and economic aspects as well as technical and scientific information. Thus, an interdisciplinary approach is essential.

Second, agricultural education institutions are not always structured to deal with the complexity of these issues. Substantial institutional reorientation and attitude change among faculty members may be necessary. In order to achieve such changes, the training and redeployment of teachers may be needed along with greater involvement of students, younger and environmentally aware staff and rural communities in the design of new curricula.

Third, new approaches to learning and knowing which incorporate the environmental knowledge of local people are needed. These new approaches should involve people (students, teachers, producers) learning together in collaborative, knowledge-sharing situations on campus and in the field. The ultimate aim should be to make environmental issues inseparable from the professionalism of graduates, the production practices of farmers, the commercial objectives of agri-businesses and the interests of society for a safe and secure environment.

Agricultural education institutions, working with appropriate government agencies and research institutes, need to develop research and demonstration plots that directly address farmers' needs. This requires that farmers be valued for their contribution to production through their innovations and sharing of local knowledge.
For their part, farmers' organizations need to do a better job of communicating the needs of their members to agricultural education institutions. Advisory boards are one way to improve communication between agricultural education institutions and local producers.

Extension, as a non-formal educational input, can make important contributions to sustainable agricultural production and rural development. There is a critical need for well-trained extension workers in many developing countries. However, the extension methodology portion of the curricula and programs of many agricultural education institutions is inadequate and in need of review and revision.

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CO-OPERATIVES IN BULGARIA

Bulgaria has a longstanding tradition of co-operatives which started in the 18th century with the development of agricultural co-operatives. The national system, supporting the concept of co-operative self-help organizations, allowed workers to work both in a factory and on a farm. Bulgaria, like its neighboring countries experienced a strong cultural influence from Western Europe. Raiffeisen was seen as the model for credit co-operatives; workers' production co-operatives followed the French movement and the consumer societies were inspired by what was happening in the United Kingdom.

Savings and loan co-operatives followed the agricultural co-operatives and became very efficient economic units. The peoples' banks for example, which became later the Co-operative Central Bank, formed a union which functioned as a pressure group and performed audits.

From 1944, with the rise of power of the Socialist regime, the industrial and banking sectors were nationalized. This went along with a collectivization of the private property and the means of production. During this period, the number of agricultural production co-operatives and collective farms grew considerably. Since then, all co-operatives were integrated in three broad sectors of activity — 1) consumer co-operatives, 2) handicraft and workers' co-operatives and 3) agricultural production co-operatives.

In 1990, the government began an operation of reorganization and privatization of the economy, which impacted greatly the co-operative system. Co-operatives participated in implementing the privatization policy and market conditions. But this transformation of the social and political system also implied open distrust towards co-operatives, which were still associated to socialism. The central association of agrarian co-operatives initiated the "Agricultural and Industrial Bank" which was founded in 1994 as a universal bank to help manage the financial difficulties of rural co-operatives. Handicraft and trade co-operatives which almost disappeared during the second half of the last century now slowly reappeared. The consumer co-operatives, which had been the only officially recognized state-independent type of co-operative under the Socialist regime, experienced this transformation period as less painful, but competition has since then added to a significant reduction in the number of members in this sector. Despite difficulties attached to this transition period, co-operatives have managed to preserve their social functions and traditional activities.

The major approaches of development of co-operatives and their preparation for integrating with the EU are included in the SAPARD program — a special program for accession. There are already established administrative structures for applying the program's elements. The funds are directed to improving the production conditions, preserving the natural environment, the rural regions' development, technical assistance, processing and marketing of agricultural and fish products, etc.

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Addendum: There are at least three reasons that we wish to expand the chapter on agriculture development in Bulgaria, presumably stemming in modern times from the Liberation of Bulgaria (1878) and evolving from feudalism to capitalism. The first official transaction on Bulgarian agriculture appeared on the Balkan States Exhibition in London (1907). This small monograph contained information on the co-operative self-help organizations from the times of Midhat Pasha in the Tuna Villaet. Raiffeisen was seen as the model for credit co-operatives — cf., "Yanko Musorliev. Book About the Bank. Plovdiv, 1989" from our booklist.

A marked development in the agriculture sector was achieved in the period between the two World Wars. Export-Import turnover or "trade saldo" showed that Bulgaria was on second place, only after Poland, in terms of agricultural production and yield. This was the time when Faculty of Agronomy was opened at Sofia University (1921) and the Bulgarian Agricultural Economics Institute was founded in Sofia (1936). The capital mark of this development was the huge "Encyclopedia of Agriculture" (1940) — edited by Sava Botev and Josif Kovachev, over 2000 pages.

To deprecate the critics of Capitalism in Bulgaria came the work of Prof. Yanaki Mollov. Born in the town of Elena (1882), he studied in High school at Sofia (1901) and graduated as agronomist in Moscow's Timiryazev School of Agriculture (1905). He was first Dean of the Agronomy-Forestry Faculty at Sofia University, then consecutively held the same mandate for 8 years. He was Rector at Sofia University for academic year 1939-1940. He held different posts for various periods at the Ministry of Agriculture, including two times Minister at the same establishment. After the War, Prof. Y. Mollov was somewhat aside from politics and died in neglect at year 1948. His important scientific heritage was seldom mentioned in the Socialist period. Here is a short list of most important works (in English):

— "Bulgarian Agriculture" (in O. S. Morgan, Ed., Agricultural Systems of Middle Europe. New York: Macmillan Co., 1933, p. 48). Summary: Agriculture and cultivation of cattle formed the principal bases of the economic life of Bulgaria, while mineral resources, industry, commerce and communication occupy a secondary position. The working population in Bulgaria from 1920 was 74.9 % engaged in farming, leaving for all other productive occupations approximately 25 %.

— "Types of Farming Regions in Bulgaria" (with Clayton E. Whipple). Comment: Clayton E. Whipple was agricultural economist in the "Office of Foreign Agricultural Relations", Washington, D.C., specializing in the agriculture of southeastern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean region. The book was finished and published by the close collaborator of the diseased professor Dr. Mihail Vitanov (1948).

Thirdly, it remains to mention the reform in the co-operatives sector from 1990. This was operatively included in the SAPARD program of the EU, but funds have remained blocked for prolonged period since now, ditto.

 

Pictures 1, 2 & 3: Sample illustrations on the text above.

(i). Ministry of Agriculture and Foods starts back in 1879. The building from this photograph dates from the 1920s, when it was constructed at the Jewish quarters of the capital Sofia and within walking distance from the Jewish hospital.

 

(ii). "Agricultural Bank of Bulgaria", published by the Balkan States Exhibition in London (1907).

 

(iii). Prof. Yanaki Mollov (1882-1948), transcribed Janaki S. Molloff in Western literature — doyen of Agriculture science in Bulgaria.

 

 

Copyright © 2009 by the author.