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174. Mobile Technology Transforms African Farmers into Cooperative Entrepreneurs

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Coop Name: National Cooperative Business Association N° of Employees: 200
City: Washington N° of Members: 400
Country: United States Year of formation: 1916
Website: http://www.ncba.coop Twitter: Link
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About this coop:

The National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA) is the national association for cooperative businesses providing cross-sector education, support and advocacy to help start and grow co-ops across a variety of sectors, including agriculture, childcare, energy, financial service and credit unions, food distribution, healthcare, housing, retail and telecommunications. For nearly 100 years, our mission has been to develop, advance and protect cooperative businesses demonstrating that cooperatives are a better business model for advancing economic and social impact. For 50 years, we have supported cooperative development globally through our CLUSA International Program.

Mozambique sits on the coast of southeastern Africa, blessed with fertile soil, but suffering the effects of difficult transportation and little communication infrastructure in its rural areas. 81 percent of its population contributes to its agriculture production, which amounts to nearly one third of the country’s GDP.

Since 1995, CLUSA International (CLUSA), a program of the National Cooperative Business Association, has been working actively with Mozambican farmers to form associations and cooperatives in order to tap into the largely untouched resource of cooperative labor. This methodology of small scale farmers coming together to collectively sell their yields to bigger buyers has seen dramatic increases in profits and, subsequently, livelihoods over the last 17 years.

CLUSA saw this mass success as the first step to a much larger potential, and has since been coming up with methodologies to use technology as a means of scaling up the success of the cooperative model for agriculture in Mozambique.

In May of 2011, CLUSA inaugurated an SMS program, funded by USAID’s SANA, and in partnership with Save the Children. Cell phones are a commodity common in Mozambican homes, and this program utilizes Esoko, a mobile technology company which offers a variety of applications to provide market information to users in the field. Through the Esoko platform, co-op representatives, agribusinesses and government officials can access market prices, offers to buy or sell commodities, farming techniques and tips, weather information and more.

The Umpavala Cooperative of the Erati district collectively produced 50 tons of corn but was unable to identify a local buyer to purchase the corn at a competitive price. The local asking price was 12 cents per kilo but Umpavala sought a minimum of 18 cents per kilo. Using the Esoko platform to offer their corn to market, the co-op received a bid for 24 cents per kilo from a large purchasing agent in the Nacala Port, some 150 miles away. They coordinated with the buyer through the platform and seamlessly completed the transaction, obtaining a price that was twice what they would have received in the local market.

The SMS program has already reached 1,800 groups. In joining together and working toward a common goal, hundreds of Mozambican farmers, with the help of CLUSA, have formed cooperatives, embraced co-op friendly technology, and watched their lives, and the lives of their families dramatically improve.

Author of this story
Andrea R Cumpston
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