This week the Regional Technical Working Group from Beneshangul Regional State in Ethiopia conducted a field visit to a women’s agricultural cooperative in Maokomo Special Woreda. This cooperative is one of the primary cooperatives established with UNCDF’s support in the framework of the Joint Programme in four Developing Regional States (DRS), in collaboration with UNDP, UNICEF, FAO, WFP and WHO.
The cooperative is part of Tokuma Farmers’ Cooperative Union that UNCDF helped to establish a year ago. Now the Union and its primary cooperatives are legally registered to operate in Maokomo Special woreda and across the country. When the Union was set up, there were six member cooperatives with 849 farmers including 215 women and a startup capital of only 120,000 Birr (about USD 6,000). The Union ensures better economies of scale for the participating primary cooperatives by collecting, bulking and supplying to forward market chain at regional and central levels various agricultural products (sorghum, sesam, niger, etc.). During the first six months of its existence, the Union has delivered major benefits for its members and the whole woreda community. The number of multipurpose cooperatives increased to six (with three new ones being established and three existing ones being strengthened), whereas the number of women’s cooperatives increased to eight (with seven new ones being established and one existing being strengthened). The total membership rose to 1,317 farmers.
Most importantly, the Union has established a market linkage through an agreement with the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX) in Addis Ababa, thus ensuring better selling prices for local farmers while at the same time obtaining a better bargain for inputs, such as fertilizers. For example, the current price of the Niger seed at the local market is Birr 1,000 per quintal while the price at the national market ranges between 1,100 and 1,200 Birr.
The Mimi Akobo women’s cooperative is one of the seven newly established cooperatives in Maokomo Woreda. This cooperative has a task of bulking Niger seed and other farm crops from members and providing farm inputs to members for farm crops production during cropping season. During the off-season cropping the women cooperatives undertake saving and credit activities with the available capital without charging any interest. Additionally, the women have agreed to start a joint business to be owned by the cooperative (e.g. edible oil mill, grain grinding mill and consumable goods store). The women put their savings on a monthly basis in the cooperative and their contribution has now reached Birr 8,000.
The cooperative is working very closely with the Union to receive and use capital to collect the Niger seed during the bulking. The cooperative is persistently working to make a real change to the life of its members. Ever since the creation of the Mimi Akobo women cooperative, its members have had a good exposure to the local economy and had increased their confidence to engage and start new small businesses on their own.
As Ato Muhammod, DRS Coordinator, says “There was no institution in the woreda to provide this type of services, and of course this has been a long time challenge for the Government. But now the Tokuma Union and cooperatives such as the Mimi Akobo women’s cooperative have solved this problem, and we are happy with DRS program.”