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Challenging future for cooperatives

From Mbale to Mbarara, and Masaka to Arua, an agreement holds that cooperative unions drove the growth and transformation of then Uganda, in the 60’s. Now with several cooperatives making a return after decade’s long fall, the question still remains on what could be the proposed future of cooperatives, as government moots a revival for cooperatives, questions regarding what to revive, and whether there is a revival plan.

Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, Amelia Kyambadde says, “Cooperatives must be revived, the cooperators, must cooperate amongst themselves, in production, marketing, value addition, and many others’’

Much has also changed since 1985 since when unions fell, following a period of political instability in Uganda.

Revival effort would have to take into account that traditional cash crops such as coffee and cotton no longer hold that much dominance or serve as the only alternative for farmers in their cooperative unions. There are new cash crop innovations, such as people are growing simsim, sunflower, fruits, and other food crops, such as rice and maize, therefore, the need to recreate cooperates looking at these new enterprises.

Also, the market forces could also prove challenging for unions waking up from a long slumber, unfortunately putting them into another collapse.

However, there is still huge room for cooperatives to function in Uganda away from agriculture and farming, sectors such as transportation, manufacturing, and housing remain largely unexploited and the virgin.

Cooperatives can add on the duty of advisory services, creating extension staff belonging to the cooperative, away from the traditional roles and responsibilities, of saving and distributing money, advises Kyobe Godfrey Kibuuka, of Uganda Pension Umbrella Fund.

‘‘Today, several cooperatives have recreated to look at the future enterprises, with the future of cooperatives largely dependent on first studying the challenges and demands of the modern world such as Computer software development, application development, all geared towards simplifying life.’’ add’s Kyobe Godfrey Kibuuka.

With that view in mind, he is confident that cooperatives will make progress and get back and even exceed past glory.

The other sticky issue is what the role of government is in cooperatives.  In the past, the government has partly been blamed for the fall of reunions. The cooperative societies act accords government a regulatory role but cooperators say the government has sometimes overstepped its mandate, taking away not just autonomy but also ownership, calling for the need for government to restrict to its mandate.

Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, Amelia Kyambadde advocates that government draws a strategy and leave the cooperatives to organize themselves and run their own unions.

Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, Amelia Kyambadde admits that “Fine, Government is to regulate but we have also said that we owe them money, I will summarize them in one statement, we are not giving you money to leave you alone, that’s all.

She states that the side of government is to follow up on the money that has been given to several cooperatives to develop themselves, therefore why government follows up on cooperatives.

Whether this will be the year where more cooperatives rise from the dead remain to be seen but there will be bigger hurdles to jump than those already seen, discipline, creativity and reform will determine if cooperatives will leave beyond there revival.

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