Cooperators urged to embrace responsibility

Cooperators have been urged to take back control of their cooperatives by taking up membership roles and responsibilities in order to enhance the resilience and success of their organizations.

During the recent launch of Sino Uganda Trader’s Cooperative Society at Grand Imperial Hotel in Kampala, Denis Tukahikaho, the Technical Advisor for development of Cooperatives to The Uhuru Institute for Social Development underscored that member participation would define the success or failure of any cooperative.

Tukahikaho said that when individuals belong to two or more Cooperatives, their ability to patronize and grow either cooperative is undermined.

“One of the challenges we (the Cooperative movement) face is where you find one person belongs to five or six Cooperatives. Each Cooperative has its demands. You have to attend meetings, save, buy shares and so on.. In the end, you are split all over,” Tukahikaho said.

He called on Cooperators to focus on the long-term.

“For a Cooperative to be successful, you have to look at the next generation. Your needs might not be met tomorrow or the other day, but it can be met after two years or three. So, if you drop out today because your needs have not been met, you are doing a disservice to yourself,” Tukahikaho argued.

The cooperative developer also noted that many people form or join Cooperatives with the agenda of getting money from government, something he says has affected prospective Cooperatives because of lack of sustainability and membership input.

Sino Uganda Cooperative Society was launched with 52 members, having been registered and granted a probationary certificate by the Commissioner for Cooperatives in February this year. The bulk of the Cooperative’s membership comprises of city traders under the Kampala Arcaders and Traders Association (KATA).

Last year KATA, who together with Kampala She-traders Association (KASTA) were organizers for the launch of Sino Uganda, launched Kampala Arcaders and Traders Cooperative Savings and Credit Society (KATCSCS) at JBK hotel in Kampala. However, the Cooperative failed to set off with operations.

Ssekulima Amir Ssebowa, the Chairperson of Sino Uganda Cooperative Society said part of the problem in the past arose from the fact that members did not understand what they were engaging in (cooperatives).

“With the leadership training we have received, we are now ready to steer Sino Uganda Cooperative Society to success,” Ssekulima said.

Ssekulima said Sino Uganda aims to help local traders liaise with trade partners in China and other countries and facilitate ease in trade.

For Wilberforce Waliggo, the KCCA Commercial Officer for the Central Division, members ought to be clear what they expect to benefit from joining a cooperative.

“Someone will join a Cooperative for personal objectives, which if not met, the member will move on to another SACCO. The challenge is lack of sensitization. Before a member is admitted, he should be educated on how that SACCO operates, Waliggo said.

Waliggo argues that belonging to many cooperatives and frequent member exoduses have led to the collapse of many cooperatives.

“A number of Cooperatives have failed because of this challenge, members leaving and jumping onto other SACCOs! In the end, the society they are leaving may not survive because they will have pulled out whatever they injected in. Many cooperatives have died at infancy because of this challenge, which also affects the cooperative movement as it creates mistrust in the public.” Waliggo said.

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Bishop Stuart University, Cooperatives to collaborate on internship placement

Bishop Stuart University has put in place collaborations with more than 50 cooperatives where their students can go for hands-on internship practice and skills training.

The revelation was made last week by Ass. Prof. Gershom Atukunda, the university’s Dean for the Faculty of Business Economics.

“We signed MoUs with over 50 cooperatives around Ankole so that our students do their internship on their farms and it’s farmers who will evaluate them,” Atukunda explained.

The move is part of the institution’s shift from the four-wall classroom model to the field-classroom model that aims to train hands-on graduates for the African market.

“The farmers will be the professors to enable us produce quality skilled graduates in the fields of agriculture and cooperatives,” he said, adding that students must satisfy the farmers’ needs as they also help the students to reach where they want to be.

Embracing online learning

Meanwhile, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to haunt institutions, the university has adopted e-learning technology to enable students continue their studies online.

According to Prof Mauda Kamatenesi, the Vice Chancellor, Bishop Stuart University, the institution recently received official approval from the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) to conduct an online teaching system.

“It is now a new era of information which is going to be characterized by digital information. With my science background I don’t see COVID-19 ending soon and the world cannot stop because of COVID-19,” Kamatenesi said.

The e-system, dubbed ODEL (Open distance e-learning) platform, will facilitate learning for continuing students in 89 programs.

Some of the courses to be taught online include; B.A. of Cooperatives’ Management and Development, PhD in Agriculture and Community Innovation, Master of Agriculture and Rural Innovation, Bachelor of Agriculture and Community Management, MSc. in Climate Change And Food Security among others.

The online program will start on November 2, 2020 and each student is required to own a smart phone, laptop or tablet in order to access the classes.

The Vice Chancellor urged lecturers and students to take up online studies.

“We shall be conducting trainings and running meetings online, so if you do not embrace it, you will be left behind,” she cautioned.

“I have already directed all my staff to upload all their material online and develop modules in the system. Any university that is not ready to endorse the fourth industrial revolution is likely not to survive,” the VC said, citing banks which leveraged a robust digital/ e-banking system to continue running during the pandemic.

Kamatenesi says students will first undergo training on how to use the technology, then receive handouts to ensure a smooth transition into e-learning.

“The ultimate goal is to migrate to blended learning” the Vice Chancellor said

Addressing cost concerns related to adopting the new technology, Prof. Kamatenesi suggested that the cost of acquiring new gadgets would be offset by savings on school uniform and other items like books and pens.

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Farmers in Northern Uganda to embark on growing Rosemary

Hundreds of farmers in Acoli and Lango sub regions have received training on Rosemary growing from Special Anointing Oil, SAO-Uganda, an NGO that promotes growth of the popular herb around the country.

Rosemary is a perennial evergreen herb with blue flowers and minty, piney aroma. Native to the Mediterranean, it is now naturalised in East Africa.

In August this year, SAO-Uganda started training farmers interested in growing Rosemary in Lango sub-region.

Peter Otim, a farmer in Atuku town Council in Kwania district, is among the farmers who received training in growing the medicinal plant.

Otim told theCooperator that about at least 26 farmers in his area underwent the training, and more are showing interest in joining.

“I took interest in the plant because I learned about its numerous medicinal benefits. Secondly, the plant is drought-, pest- and disease-resistant,” he said.

Otim, who confessed that he first heard about Rosemary during the training, plans to dedicate two acres of land to growing the herb because he is convinced that he will get good returns from the venture.

“Besides, the company that trained us will buy the harvest, so I won’t have to worry about marketing it,” he added.

Pascal Osire, the Northern Uganda Regional Coordinator SAO-Uganda observes that the company trained farmers in all districts in Lango and Acoli sub-regions, except Amolatar, Dokolo and Amuru districts. The company expects to recruit 36 farmers per district after the training.

“Planting of the crop will start next season. Right now, we are training farmers and preparing their mindset. Next month we will be able to know how many people per village are willing to do the Rosemary growing,” Osire said.

“We want to recruit community investors who will be in charge of our projects in each district, then ambassadors at the parish level, for effective communication, reporting and quick response when a farmer needs assistance,” he added.

The agreement

Osire said the company is drafting a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to be signed by the farmers on acquisition of seedlings and marketing.

Under the proposed MoU, the company would supply farmers with seedlings on credit, which would then be paid for by the farmers in two instalments.

Osire said a farmer requires 6,000 seedlings of Rosemary to cover an acre of garden, which will be sold to them at Shs 1000 each. Other dealers in Rosemary seedlings, he says, sell each seedling at Shs 5,000.

“This implies that if a farmer wants to plant an acre, they will need Shs 6m. But we are giving the seedlings on credit because most of our farmers can’t raise Shs 6m at once,” he said.

“This will motivate the farmers take care of the crop well, knowing that they have a debt to pay,” Osire said.

Harvesting and marketing

Osire said the first harvest of Rosemary is done after 6-7 months, with a minimum yield of 1500 kilograms per acre, which is then sold at Shs 5000 per kilogram.

“That means a farmer will get Shs 7.5 million in the first harvest, and the same amount after subsequent harvests that will be done after every four months, for five years,” Osire said.

“However, when one does value addition, by for instance drying the Rosemary, they get between Shs 11-12m per harvest,” he said.

Osire noted farmers’ concerns over marketability of the product, but assured them that under the proposed MoU to be signed with the farmers, SAO-Uganda would commit to buying all the their Rosemary harvests.

Why Rosemary?

According to Osire, the company chose the Rosemary project after researching on and learning of its numerous health benefits.

“We found that it [Rosemary] heals many diseases. So, we want farmers to grow it and we make herbal medicine out of them. We can make 40 products out of Rosemary,” he said.

In addition to being used to treat headaches, poor circulation, depression, muscle cramps, to detoxify and boost the immune system, Rosemary is also used in the kitchen for food seasoning.

Osire said the company recently installed a machine for processing Rosemary oil in Kyengera.

“When we start using that machine, we will need about 10 tonnes of Rosemary every day,” he said.

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Kasese traders vow to reward president for market

Traders in the Western Uganda district of Kasese have vowed to reward President Museveni handsomely for a new market currently under construction in Kasese town.

Construction of Kasese Central market is being carried out by the government of Uganda with funding from the African Development Bank [ADB] under the Markets and Agricultural Improvement Program project (MATIP) currently in its last phase in the country. The market is scheduled for completion in February next year.

”We are thankful to the president for this market, and come February when he comes to hand it over, we shall have a big gift awaiting him,” Wilson B. Wahemba, the Chairperson of Kasese Central Market Traders and Vendors Association told theCooperator. He, however, declined to specify the nature of gift the vendors have in store for the president.

Nevertheless, Mr. Wahemba says the market is too small to accommodate all the traders interested in occupying it.

“While we appreciate the work so far done, this market remains too small to handle the number of traders were already have,” he said.

He noted that the number of vendors has grown from 800 to 1200 ever since construction of the market started in 2017, yet the available stalls and lockups stand at 846.

According to the Mayor, Kasese Municipality, Mr. Godfrey Kabbyanga, clear guidelines for governing the new market need to be put in place early enough to ensure a smooth transition once it is completed.

“We have always had problems transitioning from makeshift to modern markets. This time a proper procedure should be followed,” the mayor said.

Mr. Kabbyanga also pointed out major shortcomings of the new market, including the fact that it has no provision for restaurants, banks, clinics and other facilities.

However, Eng. Gabriel Fataki, who is overseeing construction works, says that all the missing amenities will be catered for using the project’s contingency fund.

“This market will contain everything including banks, restaurants, places of worship and so on,” Eng. Fataki stated.

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Swedish Energy Agency Terminates Carbon Credits Agreement with Green Resources

The Swedish Energy Agency (SEA) is terminating its agreement to purchase carbon credits from the Norwegian forestry company, Green Resources—finally recognizing the devastating impact the company’s plantation has had on local communities in Kachung, Uganda.

Citing the ongoing legal dispute over land and the inability for farmers to graze their cattle within the forest, the SEA’s decision comes after five years of research and advocacy by the Oakland Institute, documenting forced evictions from the land locals depended on for agriculture, grazing, and forest produce.

The Institute’s first report in November 2014, The Darker Side of Green: Plantation Forestry and Carbon Violence in Uganda, exposed the devastating impact of the Green Resources pine plantation. But it was only after the Institute’s third report, released in August 2019, along with the actual eviction notices served to the local farmers, that the SEA announced its suspension of payments, and eventually termination of the agreement in March 2020.

“Despite solid evidence and documentation, Green Resources and its financiers, including the SEA, callously, not only turned a blind eye to the victims of their ‘green’ fraud, but also dismissed our findings,” said Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute. “If they had paid heed to the concerns raised in 2014—which should have been obvious to the SEA if due diligence had been done from the get go—Green Resources could not have gotten away with causing hunger, displacement, and distress amongst the population of 17 villages for this long,” Mittal continued.

On March 10, 2020, Development Today reported that the SEA terminated the agreement because of concerns over the ongoing land dispute and the unresolved issue of cattle grazing not allowed in the plantation. The SEA claims the work done by the Oakland Institute did not impact its decision, however, their findings are in line with its past research and advocacy. Hans Lemm, CEO of Green Resources, however, blamed SEA’s decision on the Oakland Institute.

“Land grabbing from Ugandan villagers to set up non-native pine plantations is a false climate solution, designed to allow polluters in Northern countries to continue with business as usual. This is the cautionary tale that Mr. Lemm should learn from, instead of placing blame elsewhere,” was Mittal’s response to the CEO.

Despite ample hard evidence, public investment funds of Norway and Finland—Norfund and Finnfund—are the primary shareholders of Green Resources since 2018. They have financed the company over US$62.5 million (NOK 600 million) . The question is now how long Norfund and Finnfund—supposed investment vehicles for developing countries—will remain complicit in its wrongdoing.

The SEA’s decision is another step towards justice for local communities. The Oakland Institute renews its call for Green Resources and its financial backers to be held responsible. The protracted misery inflicted on Kachung’s communities can only be rightfully addressed with the immediate end of this devastating project, so that they can reclaim their land and livelihoods. (SOURCE : OAKLAND INSTITUTE )

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Do not charge for registering SACCOs, minister warns.

The Minister of State for Microfinance, Haruna Kasolo Kyeyune has cautioned district officials against charging community members for registering Savings and Credit Cooperative Societies (SACCOs).

Minister Kyeyune issued the warning on Friday March 13, 2020, at Hotel Leslona, Moroto while launching the Presidential Initiative on Wealth and Job creation (EMYOOGA) in Karamoja region. Under the initiative, government will provide funds for cooperators in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to boost their incomes.

The warning followed complaints by several local community members that some district officials demand money from members before registering their SACCOs, a service that the minister says ought to be free of charge.

READ ALSO:Cooperatives to hit 20,000 by December – Kitandwe.

“This is a serious offence, and whoever is found charging members of the public for registration of their SACCO will be dealt with,” Kyeyune said.

He also advised the leaders of Karamoja region against politicizing the Presidential Initiative saying that would affect the core objective of the program which is to lift Ugandans out of poverty.

“This initiative is for everyone, regardless of where you belong; it is non-discriminative,” he said.

The regional launch was attended by district LCV chairpersons, Resident District Commissioners (RDCs), District Commercial Officers (DCOs), Political leaders, District Internal Security Officer (DISO) and representatives from the business community in Karamoja region.

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