Ugandan cooperatives have been asked to work towards developing from peasantry to commercial industrialized cooperatives if they want to gain from farming.
The advice was given by Professor Michael Kansiime, the program director for Africa institute for strategic services and development (AFRISA) at Makerere University during the pre-annual general meeting workshop for Uganda cooperatives alliance that took place today Thursday at Grand Imperial Hotel in Kampala.
Prof. Kansiime noted that although cooperatives were formally initiated to give farmers more bargaining powers and fight for their rights, this is not happening because the cooperatives are financially incapable of making any strong decisions or demand on behalf of the farmers.
“When we look at cooperatives that are in Uganda at the moment, you realize that they are too weak to make any demand. Most of them are just there in names but there is no real activity taking place on the ground. This must change. Farmers must make stronger cooperatives that can make intentional demands as well as provide them with international markets and information.”
He added, “These cooperatives look at today and do not care about the future. This must change if Uganda is to attain middle income status especially for its farmers. In other countries like Korea, Italy and even Kenya, cooperatives have been able to make real change in the lives of farmers and are the biggest source of job opportunities and market research.”
The professor who presented a paper on ‘investing in cooperatives education research and development to realize better performance’ highlighted ways on how commercial cooperatives can be achieved.
“This can be achieved through partnerships with bigger companies, enterprise innovation, value chain education, training and research as well as understanding the science innovation and technology used in agriculture,” he said.
“The agriculture sector in Uganda will only be modernized if we reinforce cooperatives and capitalize them to be able to do research and innovations so that the farmers can produce goods that are on the international market.”
He asked farmers in Uganda to look beyond their political differences and beliefs and work together towards the common good of eliminating poverty and benefiting from their produces.
The chairman Uganda Cooperative Alliance (UCA), Peter Kimbowa, said the organization was doing a lot of work to make sure that these cooperatives have access to cheap interest rates capital and also help them to position themselves for businesses.