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Cooperatives Urged To Innovate As ‘Good Old Days Are Gone’

Sowedi Sserwadda in coat, the Kibinge Coffee Cooperative Chairperson with another farmer in a demonstration farm

The Cooperative movement in Uganda is told to forget the “old good days” when it enjoyed success due to the monopoly granted by the government.

Then, until the 1980s, the cooperative societies and unions were largely responsible for the procurement and distribution of agricultural inputs, post-handling and storage, processing and marketing of produce.

This made the cooperatives the most important vehicle for the agriculture sector and contributed heavily directly and indirectly, to the economy, according to the Uhuru Institute for Social  Development .

The organisation, a social business now supporting the revival and sustainability of cooperatives in a modern world economy thinks the movement must adapt to the forces of change like globalisation and technological changes.

Speaking at the climax of the Coop360 Innovation  Challenge, Leonard Okello, the Chief Executive Officer at Uhuru Institute said it was time for them to embrace change as they push for the cooperative movement to account for at least 30 percent of the country’s economic activity.

The climax followed a study done by the institute in conjunction with Goldstone Consulting and Training, which, they say, revealed a lot of need for  the cooperatives to adopt new methods of doing things if they were to be sustainable.

This then informed the decision to start Innovation awards, and 25 cooperatives were involved in the process.

Innovation awards were aimed at supporting Innovation and creativity in the sector which is now challenged with issues like climate change, liberalisation and increasing land scarcity, among others.

According to Daniel Bukenya, head of the Judging Committee, the top most innovative cooperatives were awarded based on a range of inventions that were evaluated for their innovativeness, governance frameworks, scalability, and sustainability.

He said resilience of the cooperatives was the most evident discovery by the team during the study, and urged them to brave for more tough times ahead.

Mengya Integrated Farmers Cooperative Society from Kween district became the winners of the inaugural Coop360 Innovations Award, which Uhuru Institute wants turned into an annual event.

The group’s Innovation was aimed at taming the natural hazards in the mountainous region that suffers excessive rains and landslides followed by long periods of drought.

Their flagship Innovations included what they called modified Irish Potato which can produce a tuber as heavy as a quarter a kilogram, as well as a pressure irrigation system that uses no electricity or manual pump but gravitational manipulations.

Moses Kiptala who represented Mengya said their innovations were informed by the soil topography of the area which is hilly and dry and does not support many kinds of cash crops…

The first and second runners-up were Bushika Integrated Area Enterprise Limited from Bududa District and Kibinge Coffee Farmers Cooperative Society, of Bukomansimbi, respectively.

Bushika integrated was chosen for their “Forest Garden” Innovation, a climate-smart approach that has enabled the members, who largely grow coffee, to survive in the mountainous Elgon region.

Through recycling of coffee waste into charcoal briquettes while training farmers to protect trees they have diversified the incomes if their members through innovating into other products that are interdependent with coffee.


Ronald Wekoye said a half-a-kilo park of the processes coffee costs 20,000 shillings, far higher than the average market price.

Kibinge Coffee Farmers Cooperative was hailed for its Farm Management Initiative that is aimed at rescuing coffee growers who have challenges managing their plantations.

On top of water harvest systems, they also have introduced the “succession plan” initiative which is aimed at ensuring better life for members who go into retirement.

Rogers Serubombwe, the General Manager, said that, at a small cost, they have helped their members to realize better harvests through better inputs and systems that the plantation owners would otherwise not afford.

The other finalists were Amuca Coffee Producers and Marketing Cooperative Society,  Reformed Poachers and Batwa Farmers Cooperative Society and the Uganda Central Cooperative Financial Services Ltd.

The Winner received a cheque worth 20 million shillings while the first and second runners-up got 10 and five million shillings respectively.


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