KIRYANDONGO – Over 120 youth under Kigya United Farmers’ Cooperative Society in Kiryandongo district are excited that their investment in quality seeds has produced positive results and are hoping to grow their business further.
The cooperative’s youth in April this year participated in the Legacy Awards organised by The Uhuru Institute for Social Development [TUI], winning Shs 4 million, which they later used to begin a business of their choice.
Kigya United Farmers’ Cooperative Society is an umbrella of 22 primary cooperatives with about 622 active members, majority of whom are engaged in rural agriculture.
The Shs 4mln is an incentive that has re-ignited the agro-investment spirit of the winners that participated in the competition organised mainly for youth belonging to cooperatives in the country.
While talking to theCooperator in Kiryandongo district, the cooperative’s manager Samuel Otai said after the their youth delivered the reward of Shs 4mln, gave them a loan of Shs 1.4mln to make an initial investment of Shs 5.4mln.
“After winning the money, we talked to management of Kigya to lend us Shs. 1.4mln to top up Shs 4mln so that we could buy seeds for our youth farmers.”
Otai said after discussions with a certified agro supplier, they settled for maize seeds, owing to the fact that majority of the members are engaged in grain production, as well as the cooperative.
At the onset of the planting season, Otai says there was a huge influx of youth and other members who wanted to buy the seeds, although the number that wanted to have the seeds and pay after harvest was equally challenging.
“Many of the youth did not have the seeds, neither did they have capital to buy. So we agreed in writing that they would sell their produce to the cooperative, so that we could recover money for the seeds,” said.
“The objective we had as the cooperative was to impact the lives of as many youth as possibly we could. We used this as an opportunity to reach them, but also we used it to recruit more members into the cooperative. Our numbers have been growing,” he adds.
Within one season the group has managed to, directly and indirectly, turn around the fortunes of the youth, whose hopes had been dashed by the long wait for government financial programmes.
Otai, widely regarded as the star that shines in the cooperative, said the involvement of the youth during planning was critical, as they were able to ascertain the critical needs of the group, and the challenges at hand.
“We held several meetings with the youths, but also went to the field to ask them how they would want to be helped. Many recommended that we procure for them seeds, and particularly maize seeds to plant.”
Planning an agro-input outlet
The cooperative envisages a growing entity, especially in a rotational format where several farmers and youth groups in Kiryandongo district would access good quality seeds, increase their harvest and return the business reward to the cooperatives besides exclusively buying the grain from them.
Otai says one of the major challenge faced by the farming community in the area is access to good quality agro-inputs due to the lack of stores.
“Farmers here do not have ready supply of agro-inputs including simple things. We buy our inputs from Masindi town, which makes it quite expensive,” he says.
Otai says the cooperative intends to use the money invested into the seeds business to establish agro-inputs stores in Kigumba and Nyakibaale towns to readily supply the farming community there.
With the majority of the population engaged in farming, agro-inputs investment comes in handy with other services including advisories, training among others.
Otai says farmers have always urged the cooperative to supply them with several inputs, although it is not among the core businesses of the cooperative.
“We want to bring all seeds, agro-inputs, and agrochemicals as demanded by the farming community to help them save but also increase their productivity,” Otai says.
He told this reporter many of the youths would want to change their livelihood but are bogged down by a lack of knowledge and basic training to profitably run their ventures. He appeals for more training in business and financial management, records keeping, and business projection to skill Cooperative members.
TUI has been running programs to skill youth in cooperatives through mentorship and other basic business skills.
Kigya United Farmers Cooperatives Society is among the many beneficiaries of the programme that has changed lives and business fortunes of cooperators.
Formed on the premise to improve agricultural production in Kiryandongo district, and improving access to markets, the Cooperative has experienced a growing membership belonging to different primary societies.
The cooperative has grown its share capital to at least Shs 77,500,000 with several physical assets including land, buildings, motor cycle among others.
Although the Chairman of the cooperative Tom Tomanya says members’ compliance to loan repayment is still low, he is happy to note that the loan profile of the Society has grown to over Shs 20mln.
“I want to appreciate the fact that our profile is growing, although some members are still slow in responding. This signals growth, trust, and persistence,” he added.
Tomanya meanwhile called for efforts to skill the loans and credit committee of the cooperative to ensure the safety of the cooperative’s funds, and improve decision making.
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