Harnessing the 6th Cooperative Principle (“cooperation among cooperatives”) through learning exchange visits, cooperative networking, and peer-to-peer learning is a key activity under NCBA CLUSA’s Creating an Environment for Cooperative Expansion (CECE) project. Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Cooperative Development Program (CDP), NCBA CLUSA’s CECE project embraces P6 as a way to help cooperatives strengthen their businesses and association activities.
Earlier in 2022, NCBA CLUSA’s CDP team in Kenya organized a learning exchange trip for Nandi Dairy Cooperative Union leaders and members to visit Meru Dairy Cooperative Union. Nandi Dairy Union, as a younger organization established in 2018, wanted to learn from Meru Dairy Union since they have been operating since 2005. Nineteen people participated in the exchange trip, including Nandi Union leaders, leaders from the Union’s member cooperatives, and Nandi County Government Cooperative Officers.
The learning agenda included topics such as service provision to members, collaboration with county government, women’s empowerment in cooperatives, successes and challenges with capitalization, and mitigating climate change. Nandi leaders got to see firsthand the facilities in Meru and visited leaders’ and members’ farms to gain a deeper understanding of the cooperative ecosystem and the relationships that Meru has developed with its members and the county government.
One of the key takeaways for the Nandi delegation is Meru Dairy Union’s central role as a higher tier cooperative. Marketing products, providing other services to members, and advocating on behalf of their members with the county government is what has enabled Meru Union to become a pillar of the cooperative community in Meru over the past 17 years.
The Nandi participants also observed the importance of women’s participation in cooperatives. “I never realized that women’s participation and leadership in cooperatives can be a powerful tool for cooperative growth and family stability until I saw Edith Nkatha on the farm (as a farmer), in the cooperative (as a leader) and in the union (as a director),” said Naomi Maru, Director of Women’s Affairs at Lelchego Dairy Cooperative.
“I never realized that women’s participation and leadership in cooperatives can be a powerful tool for cooperative growth and family stability until I saw Edith Nkatha on the farm, [and] in the cooperative.” – Naomi Maru, Lelchego Dairy Cooperative
The group visited Kithirune Dairy Cooperative, which is a Meru Dairy Union member and managed by a woman, and toured Edith Nkatha’s family farm. Mrs. Nkatha is a leader in Meru Union, her primary cooperative, and in the community as an advocate for gender equity and women’s participation in cooperatives.
One of the most exciting lessons learned for the Nandi delegation was seeing Mrs. Nkatha’s biogas production. With some of her savings, Mrs. Nkatha had a biogas converter installed on her farm that turns cow dung into biogas for clean cooking fuel and the slurry by-product into compost. The biogas has reduced the amount of time she spends fetching firewood, enhanced the safety of her kitchen, provides compost for her farm, and is one way she contributes to mitigating climate change.
After returning to Nandi, NCBA CLUSA connected the cooperative leaders to a local organization that installs biogas production equipment: Sistema Bio – Good Farmland Management Limited Kenya. The CDP project and Nandi Dairy Union organized a demonstration with Sistema Bio in December 2022. Mrs. Kirwa, a member of Lelchego Dairy Cooperative, is excited about the many benefits of this technology. “Even with only two animals, it’s possible to install a biogas [machine] that will assist the family in food preparation, cleanliness in the kitchen and home, increase women’s time for other activities and, overall, conserve our environment.”
NCBA CLUSA’s CDP project will work with Nandi Dairy Union and member cooperatives in 2023 to continue education on biogas production and support their biogas equipment procurement planning. NCBA CLUSA will also organize another exchange visit for Meru Dairy Union leaders to visit their counterparts in Nandi, helping to facilitate a stronger inter-county network of dairy cooperatives in Kenya. With the current CDP project coming to an end in August 2023, these peer networks are an important part of ensuring a sustainable cooperative ecosystem.