At the end of September, over 175 cooperative leaders and stakeholders representing 120 agriculture cooperatives from across Malawi came together for training and education on how to professionalize their industries. The Cooperative Leadership Event closed with the Malawian Government promising to establish a new cooperative bank to support farmers in Malawi.
“I would like to thank the Ministry of Industry for their promise that they will work hand-in-hand with cooperatives,” said Ehenre Topi, a participant from Momona Rice Cooperative, referencing the announcement of the cooperative bank. “Bank interest rates are too high for us; this will help all farmers in Malawi.”
Over five days, agriculture co-op leaders as well as university students, NGO partners and government stakeholders attended workshops and presentations to strengthen leadership and management, propose strategies and policies to support co-ops and public-private partnerships and collect new quality data on Malawian co-ops and farmer organizations. NCBA CLUSA sponsored 15 co-op leaders to attend.
Mr. Prince Kapondamgaga, CEO of Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM), gave an opening speech on behalf of all apex institutions of Malawian rural and agricultural cooperatives and farmer organizations. He called for a change in mind-set and a shift from subsistence agriculture to agri-business.
One practical training that stuck out to Topi was to grow the role of cooperatives in marketing their product. His co-op was formed in 2007 and now farms rice on over 400 hectares.
“While the farmer is doing his farming he knows it is being marketed, and so he knows he can sell his commodities,” said Topi.
The event—the second in a series of three across East Africa this year—was put on by a partnership of 16 organizations, including NCBA CLUSA, and was hosted by the Enhancing Cooperatives Through Development Initiative. The first Cooperative Leadership (CLE) event was held in Uganda last May and was the largest gathering of agricultural co-ops ever in the country. The foundation for the three CLEs across East Africa was laid at the Cooperative Research Seminar, hosted by NCBA CLUSA earlier this year.
The CLE was organized by CIAT in partnership with fifteen institutions, including NCBA CLUSA, GIZ, FAO, USADF, OXFAM and OCDC.
The Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives of Malawi, Honorable Joseph Mwanamveka MP officially closed the Cooperative Leadership Event in Lilongwe with the announcement of the cooperative bank. The ministry is currently in the process of revising national cooperative legislation and policy.