More than 100 leaders and managers representing 102 cooperative and farmer organizations gathered outside Kampala, Uganda last month for the first African Cooperative Leadership Event. The event, hosted by Enhancing Development Through Cooperatives (EDC) with funding from the Overseas Cooperative Development Council (OCDC), was the largest ever gathering of agri-business co-ops in Uganda.
Over four days, Ugandan cooperators received training in business and leadership skills and engaged with government, NGO and private sector stakeholders and thought leaders on cooperative “Life Cycle Framework” and agribusiness finance. The event was designed to take the training from the Graduate Institute of Cooperative Leadership from the University of Missouri to Africa. The foundation for the three Cooperative Leadership Events across East Africa was laid at the Cooperative Research Seminar, hosted by NCBA CLUSA earlier this year.
Based on over 13 years of research, EDC interviewed cooperatives across nine African countries, informing the gaps and leadership skills that training should address. Over 50 staff from organizations including ACDI-VOCA, Technoserve, USAID, Global Communities, UCA, GIZ and IFAD also attended and provided training. Ariong Abbey, NCBA CLUSA’s director for the Youth Empowerment Through Agriculture (YETA) project in partnership with The MasterCard Foundation, gave a session on engaging youth within the cooperative sector.
“We think it is the time to support cooperatives by giving their leaders management skills to help steer them into viable enterprises,” said Nicolai Francesconi, a researcher and economist from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) during the event. “Farmers’ organizations are usually made up of smallholder farmers, women’s groups, the elderly or minority groups who lack the capacity to manage such organizations. Attention should be given to strengthening organization’s managerial capacity.”
In addition to the training on youth, NCBA CLUSA sponsored 15 participants from various Ugandan agri-coops and youth associations to attend the training.
The youth who attended said they felt that the training was helpful in developing how their co-ops functioned, including setting clear rule and bylaws. Ochan Dennis, Chairman of the Ribe Ber Producer Association in the Kiryandongo region, noted that for a young group like theirs, training members in how a co-op works was an important first step.
“With the knowledge I got from the training I am going to the help the other cooperatives in my region who could not attend. I will let them know more clearly what cooperatives mean because we are still a young, growing association in my village,” Dennis said.
“I am delighted and empowered by the training. I want to appreciate all you’ve done for us,” said Amangole Stella, treasurer of the God’s Mercy Youth Producer Association in Kole.
The next Cooperative Leadership Event will be held in Kenya and Rwanda with the possibility to organize additional CLEs in West Africa (Burkina Faso), Latin America (Guatemala) and Asia (Nepal, in late 2016 or 2017.