Kigayaza members not only sell products together, but they also have shared projects including pigs and growing trees. They concentrate on sharing information with each other, including through training and meetings which they see as a way to build each others knowledge. They have received a series of sensitisation and training meetings provided by Uganda Co-operative Alliance through the YEECO (Youth Economic Empowerment Through Co-operatives) Project and now have over 100 members who are all farmers mainly aged between 25 and 30.
They hold monthly meetings and as and when they need to call meetings for training they also feel free to visit other members farms at any time and consult them. When I asked members about the benefits of being a member of a co-operative, several were cited.
They said that being in a co-operative has enabled them to access opportunities, such as building networks with other organisations that then provide them with training, or seeds or information on farming. They also talk about the skills and knowledge they have acquired, including information on new farming methods, in particular which crop to grow and when.
Kigayaza Youth Co-operative faces challenges. It is difficult to recruit female members, to mobilise some members and find resources to further the co-operative. In particular, it needs money to build a store which will better equip it to combine (bulk) their crops and wait for a better price and also buy a mill for its maize crop, which would enable it to add value to maize by milling and packaging it. They also lack a central office and do not have staff, the board co-ordinates and conducts activities. They have appreciated and been motivated by the YEECO project and are concerned what will happen now that it has finished.
That said, Kigayaza has a strong leadership and motivated members, many of whom know and are committed to their co-operative being independent, democratic and autonomous and running according to the co-operative principles and values.
This story is from the book by Sally Hartley, “A New Space for a New Generation: The Rise of Co-operatives Amongst Young People in Africa” published by The Co-operative College in 2011.