Dairy cooperatives in Kiruhura grapple with leadership, price and quality issues

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By Otushabire Tibyangye

Posted  Wednesday, December 4  2013 at  00:00

In Summary

Cooperative unions enable farmers reap the benefits of collective bargaining. But, at times, there are other factors at play that belie this view.


Cooperative societies in Uganda are finding their feet after almost two decades in limbo but there are aspects, especially leadership, that are hot spots for a host of related issues. Kiruhura District is one of the areas where dairy cooperative societies are performing poorly.

The members accuse their leaders of incompetence, corruption and intrigue while the leaders fault them for not taking the cooperatives seriously.

Sam Rumari, from Kiguma village, Burunga Sub-county, blames farmers for shunning meetings yet they are very important, partly because of the individualistic culture of cattle keepers, which makes it difficult to mobilise them. The farmers perceive meetings as a waste of time.

“Traditionally, we meet by default like on weddings, burials and such ceremonies but hardly any clan meetings. Nomads meet at watering points thus the individualistic behaviour we exhibit,” he explains.

Also, non-functional primary cooperatives are as a result of failure to adhere to cooperative principles of elections every two years and changing the leadership after four years. Most of the current leaders have spent more than 10 years in office.

Geoffrey Baingana, chairman, Banyankore Kweterana Cooperative Union (BKCU), observes that since the beginnings of the cooperative movement in the country, areas in the cattle corridor of Ankole, notably Isingiro and Nyabushozi, have not done well. This was because it was difficult to mobilise nomadic cattle keepers.

“Although BKCU had a component of livestock, it was always difficult because the farmers were moving in search of water and pastures, hence the collapse of primary cooperative societies,” he says.

Chairman, Uganda Crane Creameries Cooperative Union (UCCCU), George Nuwagira, says governance is still a big challenge for the survival of cooperatives.

In his address at UCCCU’s annual general meeting, held in March, Nuwagira noted that unless the principles are followed, cooperative societies are bound to collapse.

Governance is still not up to required standards in member unions. For UCCCU, only the Rukungiri, Mbarara and Sheema unions held their annual general meetings for 2012 in time; that was before end of March 2013.

“Poor leadership is a cause for discontent among dairy farmers and hinders our progress,” he said.

At a recent meeting of dairy farmers in Kiruhura, he raised similar concerns about their cooperative union. “It is you who chose bad leaders who had personal interests above that of the members,” he said.

Bigger role
He added that unless the farmers resolve their leadership wrangles, the manipulation of farmers by the milk processors and traders will continue. “You have the key to stop the manipulation by reviving the primary cooperative societies,” he said while encouraging them to play a bigger role in the value chain. “When we own the milk value chain, then we shall have solved the manipulation and persistent low prices for milk.”

Kiruhura District chairman, Sam Katugunda, observes that while farmers have benefitted from the sale of milk and other animal products, they need to look at dairy farming as a business not as a traditional way of life. “Once milk is looked at as business then the market where we are not manipulated will be readily available,” he remarked.

Katugunda advised that where cooperative societies and unions have collapsed, new ones should be formed. He promised effective supervision so that they deliver:

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