The CUMA (Coopérative d’Utilisation de Matériel Agricole or “cooperative for the use of farm implements”) emerged from French farmers’ need to mechanise after World War II. Through CUMAs, farmers own and operate farm agricultural machinery collectively, making it both more affordable and more efficiently utilised. The main activity of these co-operatives is harvesting but some are also active in irrigation, forestry and drainage. Due to the technological evolution of agriculture, CUMA projects have recently become even more diversified. There is a big boom in small-scale food-processing, and a growing number of these plants are now run by CUMAs.

In rural areas, an increasing number of jobs are carried out by local CUMA partners. Many schools, for example, are using wood pellets supplied by a CUMA to power boiler heaters. In some rural communities CUMAs function even more efficiently by renting out their machinery to local authorities to complete a range of works, including snow clearing in winter.

While farmers make up only five per cent of the workforce in France, they occupy about two-thirds of its territory. In areas such as the Lozère in France’s deep southwest, the local CUMA has developed to become the leading economic force. By 1997 France’s national federation of CUMAs identified more than 13,000 of these machinery co-operatives, and they could also be found in the French-speaking Canadian province of Québec and neighbouring Ontario.

IYC Yearbook feature: