How a small group became a booming cooperative

What used to be a small, loose gathering of farmers in Kiryandongo District in Uganda, is now a successful cooperative with 800 members selling quality produce to large buyers. The story of this farmers’ group shows how strong commitment and vision, together with the right training and guiding methods, can lead to quick successes.

Nyamahasa United Area Cooperative Enterprise Limited started as a loose group of 40 farmers in 2008 (mostly women) who wanted to increase the returns from maize trade. The group is member of Masindi District Farmers Association (MADFA), a partner of Trias.

Successful trainings

In 2011, MADFA trained the members of the farmer group in improved agro-enterprise development, using the Enabling Rural Innovation method. These trainings had a positive impact on the members: they started to understand how to carry out farming as a business, they learned how to do market research and make the right business  choices, and to identify potential buyers and negotiate with them. They also started to appreciate the role of the household in business and resolved that married couples should be encouraged to attend training sessions as a couple. The farmers decided to develop into a larger marketing cooperative that focuses on maize and beans.

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Using Farmers Participatory Research, MADFA further trained the members in better agronomic practices. This resulted in a doubling of the productivity (from 1 to 2 tonnes of maize per acre). Members also made business plans with which they were able to receive loans from MADFA SACCO, another Trias partner. This boosted members’ investment in their farms as they could now open up more land and buy better inputs, improved seeds and fertilizers. In 2011, the group pooled 250 tons of maize of low quality. One year later, they were able to sell good quality maize to a Kenyan buyer at a good price.

 

Bright future

Inspired by these successes and failures, and with guidance from MADFA and Trias, the 2013 Annual General Meeting  focused on how to produce quality maize for international markets. As a result, the members strengthened their quality monitoring system,  agreed on a joint activity calendar to enable synchronized harvests, and improved their financial system so that each member gets access to proper funding in time.

In the meantime, the group attracted more members and other nyama2groups. Hence, in June 2013, they registered Nyamahasa United Area Cooperative Enterprise Limited with 20 member groups and a total of 810 members of which 70% women. In their constitution, they engraved their vision as  “a united and empowered commercializing farming community”.

For the current season in 2013-2014, they already look forward to supply World Food Programme (WFP) with 600 tons of quality maize. And for the next three years, they developed a strategic plan with ambitions for more production and supply to big companies, better quality, membership increase, increased investment capital, establishing a finance trust, and even packaging and labelling maize. The future is bright for Nyamahasa United Area Cooperative Enterprise!