Integrated Cooperative Model: History and the Evolution


The Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada (CDF Canada) has created the Integrated Co-operative Model (ICM) as a development approach to improve sustainable, climate-resilient, gender-equitable economic well-being for women and men small producers. This integrated cooperative approach benefits producers by increasing production and productivity, access to markets, and access to financial services.

The original ICM model or ICM 1.0 focuses on promoting an integrated network of co-operatives in the communities. The model involves three types of co-operatives – producers’ co-operatives (focusing on production), marketing co-operatives, and financial co-operatives – that work closely together to serve the economic needs of both individual members and co-operatives themselves. Together, these co-operatives offer a suite of services for a holistic and integrated approach to rural development.

The ICM 1.0 has been used for decades (and is still in use) by CDF Canada and partners in Uganda, Ghana, Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Colombia. An in-depth study of the integrated model in 2010 found that farmers had improved access to markets and extension services through their production and marketing co-operatives, and improved access to credit through their membership in financial co-operatives. Implementation of the integrated model had resulted in improved household income, as well as increased food security for both male-headed and female-headed households.


ICM 2.0 + to contribute to addressing the world’s crises

From 2020 to 2021, CDF Canada is actively exploring the application of ICM 2.0 as a potential international development approach to deal with climate change, the pandemic, and other potential crises. ICM 2.0+ was developed after rounds of discussion and research and consists of two parts: “ICM2.0” and the “plus”. ICM2.0 plays a role as a social or institutional solution: for example, a program delivery vehicle or technological adoption vehicle. And the “plus” is the scientific or technological practices (such as climate-smart agriculture practices) or thematic programs targeting specific topics or issues (such as emergent covid-19 response in rural communities).

The rationale behind the ICM 2.0+ approach is that ICM 2.0, by focusing on three basic elements of communities’ economic needs and by using co-operatives, locally-owned economic and social entities, as a vehicle, can mobilize local motivations and engagement, adapt to local culture and norms, cultivate the local human capital, and achieve economic or financial viability, so that the changes (of the “plus”) brought to the communities through the international development projects can survive and develop sustainably beyond the term of the projects.

The figures show two CDF Canada’s applications of “ICM 2.0+” in fighting climate change and facilitating pandemic response in rural communities. The centre of the three circles (production, marketing, and financial access) is the “plus”, the targeting goal (such as pandemic response) or practice (climate-smart agriculture); and production, marketing, and financial access are the three pillars to support the viability of the practice. For example, for a climate-smart agriculture practice to be economically sustainable in the local community, the farmers need to see financial success in marketing the products or get compensated if they sacrifice their income to reduce carbon emission, and co-operatives and partners can certainly play a big role in supporting farmers to achieve these goals.

In the future, CDF Canada will continuously evaluate and improve the ICM model (ICM 1.0, ICM 2.0, and ICM 2.0+) based on the changing needs, the lessons learned, and the evidence collected from our projects. If you have questions or advice related to ICM, please email




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