Electricity shortage crippling Zombo Coffee Cooperative

Over 70 women Cooperators in Zombo District are out of work after their Cooperative’s coffee processing plant ceased operations due to lack of electricity.

The women – members of Okoro Coffee Cooperative, used to work at the cooperative’s coffee processing plant, but have since been laid off after the plant ceased operations in 2006.

Gilbert Wachal, the manager of Okoro Coffee cooperative told the Cooperator that their processing plant used to process 15million kilograms of coffee per season, but was forced to wind down operations due to exorbitant energy costs. “We were depending on a generator, using 600 liters of fuel in 10 to 12 hours. The cost was neither making business sense, nor sustainable, so we had to stop,” he said.

Although the electricity network passes just 100 meters from the cooperative factory, Wachal says that their appeals to the government to be connected have fallen on deaf ears. He said that when they contacted the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), they were told they needed a three-phase transformer to generate sufficient power to serve the factory, which they couldn’t afford.

Attempts to get help from the State Minister of Energy, Simon D’Ujanga who is also the Okoro County MP were not successful either. Instead, D’Ujanga asked the cooperators to be patient, saying that plans are already underway to connect Zombo district to the national grid, after the completion of the Karuma Hydro-power dam.

When contacted, a source from REA who preferred to speak on condition of anonymity because they’re not authorized to speak on behalf of the agency confirmed that the agency has already dispatched teams on the ground in Zombo to begin the work of connecting the district to the national grid.

Zombo district is one of the four districts yet to be connected to the national electricity grid. The others are Kotido, Kaabong and Buvuma Islands.

For now, Okoro Coffee Cooperative continues selling its coffee in raw form, forgoing significant revenue that the cooperative previously generated from selling processed coffee. “We have been deprived of other by-products of coffee like the husks which we would sell as manure to farmers,” says Wachal.

As a result, Wachal says, the cooperative has struggled financially, and today lacks sufficient capital to buy coffee from its member farmers, who have resorted to selling directly to middlemen.

As for the processing factory’s machinery, Wachal says it is intact, even though he fears it could have acquired minor faults due to years of inactivity. “When we eventually get connected to electricity, we will be able to detect if there are any faults or not,” he says.

For now, the Cooperative is being anchored on by We Effect– a global NGO focused on strengthening the capacity of small-holder farmers to form cooperatives through which they can better articulate their interests.

Okoro Coffee Cooperative was established in 1962 and presently boasts of 12,000 members. Among its other properties is a 50 ton-store located 6 kilometers away from Paidha town council, which also remains largely unused due to lack of capital.

The post Electricity shortage crippling Zombo Coffee Cooperative appeared first on The Cooperator News.

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