Plans are underway to revive village co-operatives across the 54 chiefdoms in Acholi sub-region, as a means of boosting food production and income through large scale agriculture.
The plan, initiated by the Acholi Cultural Institution, kicked off last year under its Production and Investment department. A committee formed to implement the drive has already met district and local leaders in seven of the eight districts in Acholi sub-region to chart a way of ensuring that the plan sticks, once implemented.
David Livingstone Amone, the Production and Investment Minister, Acholi Cultural Institution, said their dream is to rebuild efficient and sustainable production systems that were destroyed during the 20 years of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency.
“These structures existed in the ‘60s and ‘70s when cooperatives were very strong, but they were generally limited to cultural practices. They operated primarily at the parish level and mostly utilised the cultural production units and homesteads,” Amone explained.
“However, because of the insurgency that happened in the north, those structures were destroyed and that’s why we have the partnerships for the revitalization of agricultural production and commercial industries in Acholi sub region.”
Amone argued that the production and investment platforms developed by the institution will stimulate production across Acholi’s 54 sub-chiefdoms and bring abundant economic benefits to the community.
“We need, urgently, to rebuild our production base. At the parish level, we would like to work with development partners especially in the district local government to ensure that we have producers’ associations and cooperatives that can handle the inputs,” he said.
Amone said the cooperatives will be organized from village, parish, up to sub-county level, in order to include all interested individuals.
“The problem with the current cooperative systems is that they are not inclusive, have poor structures and weak doctrines,” he explained.
“We want the existing cooperatives to form a producers’ cooperative for a particular parish and the business interest groups and team leaders will come to work together in each cooperative setting,” Amone said.
He also revealed that plans are underway to enact a constitution that will bring together all members of the existing cooperatives as well as those willing to join.
Restoring customary land tenure system
Alex Oyet, Coordinator at the Acholi Cultural Institution, said that revamping cooperative societies will help restore the communal land management system in Acholi.
Historically, over 90 percent of land in Acholi was managed under the customary land tenure system, which is now little-appreciated by most young people. The situation was aggravated by the social upheaval and displacement resulting from the LRA insurgency.
Now, Alex Oyet is optimistic that the revitalization of cooperative societies will facilitate the revival of the communal land tenure system.
“Cooperatives will solve the rampant land conflicts, because it would mean that land and food stores will be owned as a group, like in the past. Everyone will be a beneficiary,” he said.
“It is also the only way we shall protect our land from investors. We shall be the land owners and users. Investors will only come to buy our products.”
Several clans under Acholi Chiefdom for example the Payira clan in Pader district have instituted their own policies to induce community members to embark on agriculture and abandon practices harmful to the environment.
Bonny Anywar, the LC III of Atanga Sub County in Pader district, said they have enacted a by-law banning indiscriminate deforestation, which he said is responsible for climate change, with subsequent negative impacts on commercial agriculture.
“We have elected a representative in each parish to ensure that the by-law is enforced to protect the environment against degradation. Since last year, we have arrested and punished ten people for destroying the environment,” he said.