Farmer-to-Farmer volunteers continue to return to the program again and again. This past month, Mollie Moisan, Director of Cooperative Development for NCBA CLUSA member Pachamama Coffee Cooperative, flew to Zambia for her second assignment through NCBA CLUSA’s Farmer-to-Farmer program. Building on work from previous NCBA CLUSA member volunteers who helped to form the Chipata Farmers Cooperative, she assisted the group in opening a bank account and even joined another co-op herself.
After her first assignment last August in Senegal, Moisan facilitated trainings for smallholder farmers in cooperative enterprise development and marketing in Zambia. She worked with Chipata District Farmers Association (CDFA) and three of its member cooperatives, including Chipata Farmers Cooperative—which NCBA CLUSA and CDFA helped establish in 2012 during another volunteer’s assignment—Feni Multipurpose Cooperative Society, and Mwende Cooperative.
“Going to Senegal for me was extremely successful and rewarding and so I decided to go to Zambia because the NCBA CLUSA’s Farmer-to-Farmer program signifies what my company Pachamama is really about as well. Doing cooperative development abroad is really rewarding. I’m a co-op fanatic,” Moisan said.
Encouraged that a mix of membership and board members showed up for the workshops, Moisan focused her trainings on “Co-op 101” basics like the seven cooperative principles, the differences between the cooperative business model and other businesses, cooperative governance and board roles and responsibilities, building membership engagement, mapping different types of cooperatives locally and globally and brainstorming how to support the social and economic goals of the cooperative. Including examples of her work with Pachamama, Moisan said the farmers were excited to learn how cooperatives in other countries are improving their members’ lives.
“My goal was for them to understand that they are part of something bigger, and I think we accomplished that,” Moisan said. In addition to the trainings, Moisan decided to become a member of the Feni Multipurpose Cooperative Society, which helped underscore the point that cooperatives are a global movement. While facilitating a training with the co-op, Moisan said she was impressed with their professionalism and dedication to the cooperative business model, and so she asked about becoming a member.
Offering the last 50 kwacha (local Zambian currency) in her pocket, all of the farmers were thrilled to have her join their co-op. Feni recorded her American name and new Zambian name (Chisomo Banda) in their books, and noted the amount paid. Moisan intends to pay the other 450 kwacha for a total investment of about $50 USD to become a fully-vested member.
Feni was founded in 1966 and is one of the oldest cooperatives in Chipata District, Zambia. The co-op owns land and manages rental property, operates a mill for maize and grains, runs a small store called Feel Free Grocery and is involved in producing fertilizer inputs and other income generating activities. Moisan said Feni’s leadership proudly announced that this year will be the first year they are able to give back dividends to the members. The co-op’s profits will also be used to help pay down the shares of other members.
To reach the level of Feni, Moisan also worked with the Chiapata Farmers Cooperative to finally open its own bank account. The Chipata District Farmers Association had been overseeing the co-op’s finances since it was established in 2012. When Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer veteran Bob Shumaker returned to Zambia to work with CDFA last October, he urged the co-op to become more autonomous and open its own bank account. Moisan’s cooperative principles training struck a chord with co-op leadership and they decided it was time. “We ran around all day getting the necessary paperwork and signatures in order, and we literally showed up at the bank right before it closed,” Moisan said.
What keeps volunteers coming back are the connections they make with the individuals and organizations. Like Shumaker with the Chipata Farmer’s Co-op and now Moisan as a member of Feni, they are sure they will return again.
Moisan volunteered with NCBA CLUSA’s Senegal F2F project last August, in partnership with ACDI/VOCA. She enjoyed her experience so much that she decided to volunteer with the Zambia F2F project, which is funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA).
To learn more about Mollie Moisan’s experiences in Zambia and Senegal, register for the 2016 Consumer Cooperative Management Association (CCMA) Conference in Amherst, Massachusetts this June. Moisan will participate in a conference panel discussion about the F2F program and how it champions cooperative principle six: cooperation among cooperatives.
Interested in volunteering? Check out our open Farmer to Farmer assignments here.