The assistant Commissioner for cooperatives, Robert Mpakibi Waiswa, has attributed the increasing collapse of cooperative unions in Uganda to weak primary societies, lack of diversification and poor leadership, among other reasons.
Mpakibi made the remarks recently while officiating at the inauguration of Bunyoro Growers’ Co-operative Union’s new board at its offices in Masindi Municipality.
The union has over 200 members, all of whom are farmers, from 70 primary societies, but the active members are only about 100.
Mpakibi says there is a need for union leaders to review and strengthen primary societies if the country is to have strong co-operative unions.
“Unions are made by primary societies, so whenever the societies are weak, the union will also be weak and the end result will be collapsing,” Mpakibi said.
He also called on cooperative unions to embrace diversification in their business undertakings in order to tap into the ever-fluctuating market.
“Previously, unions would stick to producing only one product, such as cotton. But because of the changes in market demands such approaches are no longer working,” he said. “So, there is a need for unions to work together with farmers to diversify and produce products which serve the current market demands.”
He also identified poor leadership, buyers who move directly to the farmers, poor quality of products, and lack of shareholders in co-operative unions as some of the challenges affecting the sustainability of unions.
“We have many traders who buy directly from farmers, and even some members of unions will sell their products to such people. This makes it difficult for unions to compete,” Mpakibi said.
“Another thing is that farmers are producing products of poor quality. All these factors affect the growth of cooperative unions.”
He urged union leaders of unions to address these and other challenges to ensure sustainability.
Meanwhile, the Union’s Board Chairman, Philemon Rugaaju Bagada, said the process of its revival is underway.
He also revealed that the union had received Shs 2bn in compensation for property lost during the NRM Liberation war.
“We have already developed a supplementary budget to help us utilize the compensation money. Under this we expect to implement some of the projects in our seven-year development plan,” Rugagu said.
“In our plan, we are going to use part of the money to establish a commercial building in Hoima, acquire an animal and poultry feeds a machine, restock our ranch in Masindi, purchase farm trucks and office cars, establish a coffee factory and a rice factory, in addition to supporting and sensitizing of some of the primary societies,” he elaborated.
Speaking at the same function, the Masindi Deputy Resident District Commissioner, Dominic Tibasimwa, called on farmers to embrace cooperative unions, saying that they will give them a common voice and lobby on their behalf for the market for their products.
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