Between the 3rd and the 7th of July 2017, the “MUIIS Cooperative Platform” gathered about 150 leaders and managers of farmer cooperatives and associations that are involved in the MUIIS project, for a 5-day capacity strengthening event at CIAT-NARO in Kawanda, Kampala, Uganda.
The ultimate goal of this platform was to promote the development of a new generation of ICT-powered, business-driven and climate-smart cooperatives in Uganda. The specific objective was to gather, sensitize and train coops and associations, for these to actively and functionally engage in the MUIIS project. Compared to previous events organized by EDC, this platform was specifically designed to achieve the objectives of the MUIIS project, while building upon last year’s “Cooperative Leadership Event” and offer a second opportunity to Ugandan coops and associations to come together, learn and advocate as a consolidated national movement.
The Market-led, User-owned ICT-enabled Information Service (MUIIS) is a 3 years initiative striving to promote smallholder agribusiness innovation in Uganda. MUIIS is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) through the G4AW Facility of Netherlands Space Office (NSO). It is being implemented by a consortium of partners including EARS (Earth Environment Monitoring), eLEAF Competence Center, The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Eastern Africa Farmers Federation (EAFF), and Mercy Corps, under the leadership of CTA. In addition, this consortium work closely with five other implementing agencies: the Ugandan Cooperative Alliance (UCA), the Ugandan National Farmers Federation (UNFFE), the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO), Agricultural Insurance Consortium (AIC) and Ensibuuko Technologies. MUIIS focuses on three information products for farmers: weather alerts, agronomic tips and financial services (including index-based drought insurance). With the help of modern ICTs, MUIIS aims to support coops and associations producing maize, soya bean, beans, sesame, banana and coffee across 50 districts in Uganda. Over 350,000 farmers in Central, Eastern, Northern, and Western Uganda are expected to subscribe and benefit from the MUIIS Service Bundle.
In particular, the “MUIIS Cooperative Platform” aimed to:
1. better explain the design principles, the partnership and the implementation strategy of the MUIIS project to the leaders/managers of coops and associations, so as to promote and facilitate the collective uptake of the MUIIS service bundle;
2. assess the level of professionalization of the leaders and managers of coops and DFAs and their ability to mobilize collective marketing and generate equity capital to pay for MUIIS bundles.
3. professionalize the leadership, management and governance of coops and FOs, so as to promote and facilitate business ad capital creation by coops and DFAs and pay for the MUIIS service bundle.
Activities carried out:
Day 1 involved a review of the activities planned for the week, a presentation of the objectives of the event, and the assessment (through questionnaires) of the level of professionalization of participants and of the commercial performance of their coops and associations.
During Day 2 we explained the principles behind the design of the MUIIS Business, the mistakes made during the initial phase and the plans to go back to the drawing board and revise the approach. Participants actively engaged in discussions about the new MUIIS approach, which target service bundles to coops and associations instead of individual farmers. Participants concluded that this approach has a greater potential in promoting and facilitating farmers’ uptake and usage of service bundles.
Day 3 was fully devoted to training, in order to professionalize the leadership and management, and promote collective commercialization and equity capital generation in coops and associations. The “Cooperative Life Cycle Framework” and the “New Generation Cooperative Model” – developed by the University of Missouri – provided the structure for this training. Results from past cooperative training by CTA in Uganda, Malawi, Madagascar, Ethiopia, Senegal, Ghana, Tanzania, etc. were also shared to help apply the training to the African context and its specific challenges. In particular, the training focused on the challenge faced by coops and associations to procure, and sell in bulk the produce of member-farmers. The key message of this session was that in the absence of collective marketing or commercialization coops and associations will struggle to pay for the MUIIS service bundles. And that the governance structure of coops and associations need to be adjusted or reinvented and professionalized, to overcome this challenge.
Day 4 was designed as interactive sessions with 3 panel discussions covering business and partnership, cooperative governance, and gender/youth in agriculture. The panelists included representatives of RaboBank Foundation in Uganda, UNCDF, NCBA-CLUSA, local insurance companies, IITA, MUBS, UCA, UNFFE, CTA, etc.. A number of these panelists were present because of their interest to partner with MUIIS and have promised to follow up with business discussions.
The last (5th) day was used to review the whole event, agree with participants on their involvement in the next phase of the MUIIS project, discuss and finalize an MoU between MUIIS and the participants, and distribute attendance certificates to all participants. The event was closed with the agreement between organizers and participants to do it again next year, and upgrade it into a yearly and national event for a new generation of ICT-powered, business-driven and climate-smart cooperatives in Uganda. Another commitment made by participants was to start registering and subscribing as many coops and associaitons as possible into the MUIIS service platform. Finally, CTA proposed to follow up with the participants to help them achieve international certification – accredited by AMEA and recognized by its members: IFC, Technoserve, NCBA-CLUSA, FariTrade, ACDI-VOCA, ICCO, VECO- as professional leaders and managers of cooperative enterprises. This certification scheme is specifically designed to encourage the development of business relationship between farmer cooperatives and (inter)national buyers downstream the value chain.