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Bundibugyo cooperatives call for National Cocoa Policy

Cooperators in Bundibugyo have decried the absence of a cocoa policy to regulate cocoa production and handling which has resulted in farmers earning less due to product quality issues.

The observation was made during a two-day training of leaders of cocoa cooperatives that are members of Semliki Cooperative Union, conducted in Bundibugyo district on Monday.

The training which focused on good governance, business and finance management, was facilitated by The Uhuru Institute for Social Development in partnership with Semliki Cooperative Union.

According to the General Manager, Semliki Cooperative Union, Methodius Alyesiima:

“Cocoa has no national policy or regulatory framework to regulate the quality of cocoa on the market, and farmers don’t have post-harvest handling equipment like tarpaulins,” he said.

He called on government to draft a national cocoa policy that will promote the quality of cocoa in order to improve on the marketability of Uganda’s cocoa.

Capacity gap 

Meanwhile, the leaders also expressed concern about the need to train cooperators about their roles and responsibilities, ignorance of which has negatively affected their cooperatives, resulting in the collapse of many with others struggling financially.

The Chief Executive Officer of The Uhuru Institute, Leonard Okello, said some cooperatives enter into businesses they know little about and end up collapsing due to poor management.

“When a cooperative starts or goes into business that they don’t know better, it ends up collapsing, and most of these cooperatives have leaders who are not skilled” he observed.

He also noted that most members of cooperatives don’t know the core cooperative values and principles and tend to mess up as a result.

Semliki Cooperative Union General Manager, Alyesiima, seconded this observation and committed to translate the cooperative values and principles into local languages in an effort to make them more accessible to members.

“There is need for the core values and principles of cooperatives to be translated into local language for our members to understand them. The cooperative ethics will also be translated,” Alyesiima promised.

Teddy Kabagenyi,a member of Nyansoro Cooperative Society Limited opined that cooperatives are failing because they lack capacity-building trainings for members.

“Some members join cooperatives for the sake of joining one, but don’t know what they are supposed to do,” she said.

Cooperators were encouraged to join the Coop360 Network, an initiative of The Uhuru Institute that aims to help cooperatives overcome the many structural and capacity challenges they face, to enable them get trainings in their respective primary cooperatives.

Diversify investments

Okello encouraged cooperators to establish multipurpose cooperatives in areas which benefit their members so as to mitigate the risks that result from concentrating on a single business.

“Most cooperatives- such as those of cocoa- have no other business, and in case of a disaster like floods which has wash away the gardens, they [cooperatives] end up collapsing because their members are not earning,” Okello said.

He emphasised the role of cooperatives in promoting development and asked members to emulate successful cooperatives worldwide, such as those in China which contribute a lot to the economy

“In a country like China, you find that one cooperative has branches in all corners of the country with different businesses and this has helped China to develop,” he said.

Absent AGMs 

Alyesiima expressed shock to learn, at the training, that most of the cooperatives have gone more than three years without holding Annual General Meetings (AGMs), a situation he described as “a disaster” for the affected cooperatives.

“During AGMs, members talk about important issues such as appointments to the company’s Board of Directors, compensations, dividend payments, reports and selection of auditors among others. Hence, if they don’t take place, then it puts a cooperative into a dilemma,” he argued.

He pledged to task all cooperatives to submit tentative dates for their AGMs in order to aid enforcement and ensure that they take place.

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