By Pamela Nayebare
As we come to the celebrations of cooperatives on Saturday 2nd July, the government of Uganda under the ministry of trade, industry and cooperatives led by Hon. Amelia Anne Kyambadde has embarked on the revitalization of cooperative movements in Uganda. While in a high level dialogue that was held at Golf course hotel kampala, under the theme “Revitalizing cooperatives for smart agriculture and structural social-economic transformation,” Hon. Kyambadde said that the collapse of cooperatives hurt farmers a lot and they lost trust in them thus there’s need to rebrand them so that the trust can be won back again.
She also added that the government has made the development of cooperatives a major priority intervention for social-economic development since they help in resource mobilization, employment, increased production and value addition. This was seconded by Leonard Msemakweli the General secretary of Uganda Cooperative Alliance and Geofrey Beingana the chairman of Banyankore Kweterana one of the leading cooperative movement in western Uganda.
It is believed that out of the 16,400 registered cooperatives, 1000 were registered in 2015 alone and most of them are savings and credit cooperative societies (SACCOS) and agricultural cooperatives. Several other cooperatives have come on board under the ruling government such as energy, transport, housing, dairy, fruits and storage cooperatives.
For over 100 years, cooperatives have existed in Uganda and were more powerful during the late Idi Amin’s rule. Cooperatives were born in the early 1930s to counter the exploitation of African farmers by the European and Asian companies that had donated coffee and cotton markets. Bugisu Cooperative Union is one of the leading and earliest cooperatives which has existed for quite long since 1954. The cooperative started with coffee and has since then diversified into other sectors, in fact, it owns almost half of Mbale town and it contributed a large amount of capital for starting up the Uganda Cooperative Bank.
Hon. Amelia Kyambadde also cited some of the challenges that have been hindering the progress of cooperative movements, some of which were, political inference at local levels, lack of effective member participation, leadership and governance weaknesses and lack of appropriate knowledge and skills. Other identified challenges were, limited access to finances, poor leadership, few membership and inability to scale up, all of which the government is trying best to deal with.
The ruling government under president Museveni has put up several measures to see to it that by 2020 cooperatives have had an impact on most Ugandans, not just farmers like majority think but to whoever wishes to be a part of it. Some of the measures that Hon. Kyambadde mentioned were; first to amend the Act so as to strengthen and ensure safe and sound cooperatives, the government has also embarked on sensitizing people on the importance of cooperatives, creating a micro-finance support center to offer wholesale loans to cooperatives with only 9% interest per annum for agricultural and environmental loans and 13% interest on commercial loans. If these measures are implemented and maintained, this could play a big role upon the achievement of the 2020 middle income status as well as an inclusive development, I believe.