Cooperatives are important in the development process

Ms Rita Formolo is the project coordinator, Strengthening and Capacity Building of Caritas Cooperatives in the Archdiocese of Kampala

What you need to know:

  • The cooperative enterprises must comply with this framework, strengthening their policies and procedures to improve transparency and accountability.

On the International Day of Cooperatives on July 1, whose theme is: ‘Cooperatives ensure no one is left behind’, - the Archdiocese of Kampala joined and celebrated together - rejoicing in all initiatives and efforts made in our country by those who believe in the model of cooperation as a way of improving the socio-economic conditions of our brothers and sisters. It also improves upon fellowship of the believers, which was the backbone of the very first believers (Acts 2:42-47), as practicing this cooperative spirit helped them to solve many of their spiritual, social and economic challenges. It is because of this background that the Catholic Church promotes cooperatives.
In the last few years, we have experienced the implementation of a worldwide development model based on the market economy, which has progressively contributed to raising the demand for social and economic inclusion - despite all collective efforts made in the country.
The economic solidarity groups like cooperatives, gained more importance in this scenario due to having the values and structures that facilitates addressing these challenges. It is paramount for all of us to continue supporting cooperatives to raise their profile, recovering the status and reputation they once enjoyed in Uganda, unifying efforts with the United Nations, government, development agencies and relevant civil society stakeholders in recognition of the role cooperatives play and its potential to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals towards mitigating poverty in our country.
Cooperatives can create opportunities to empower men and women to enhance their social and economic conditions that would not be achieved on an individual basis. Community driven, locally-based and democratically controlled cooperatives can enable even the most disadvantaged groups to be integrated into rural and national development. They can support by improving livelihoods through income-generating projects; extend protection by disseminating mutual help in communities, reduce vulnerabilities to risks; promote inclusion and social justice; and fulfil the realisation of citizenship rights through control over resources and engagement in the decision-making process.
As a membership-based business, cooperatives must be run like any other enterprise to be financially successful and sustainable, although they ultimately focus on people rather than on profits. The management and common sharing of resources, allied with their voluntary community work, make cooperatives unique. When they fulfil their potential by delivering assistance, support and education, their members can benefit through improved income, social well-being and security.

Regardless of their category - whether saving and credit cooperatives (SACCOs), production and agricultural marketing, multipurpose or other services - cooperatives are all equally important and windows of opportunities within the development process. While Saccos focus on financial services, agricultural cooperatives support farmers with inputs, knowledge, processing and collective marketing, and the multipurpose cooperatives combine financing and business development.

Bottom-up approach, ownership, employment, affordable loans, development of business enterprises, value addition, dividends and promoting saving culture are some of the benefits that cooperatives can deliver to our communities. In essence, they are an integral part of the alternative economic and social development model today that holds the capacity to integrate social responsibility and civil society values based on participation, cooperation and solidarity.
It is based on these fundamental Catholic values of coming together, caring for each other and for one another that the Archdiocese of Kampala has been working for a significant time to support the expansion of cooperative enterprises under the church structures. We are strong believers that these values complemented with the spiritual support provided, delivers an integrated approach to development of the individual and our communities.
Caritas Kampala holds a project in partnership with Viatores Christi, funded by Misean Cara through Irish Aid, to strengthen the cooperatives institutional and management capacities, bringing them to work together cohesively and investing in the skills of leaders, staff and members of cooperatives so that each one fulfils their rights and obligations toward the success of the enterprises. Reviving the cooperative societies in Uganda requires a concerted effort by all involved actors to restore their credibility. This includes initiatives to stimulate diversification, support, monitoring, compliance and education, which will become more effective with the current initiatives of the government in further regulating the sector.

The cooperative enterprises must comply with this framework, strengthening their policies and procedures to improve transparency and accountability. The society members must fully participate and engage in the decision making regarding the affairs of their own business to safeguard their interests. International Day of Cooperatives is a day to strengthen and support cooperative fellowship plus seeking God’s blessing to encourage more collective action and solidarity. We give thanks for the value cooperatives bring to the lives of our people, with faith that more believers each day embrace our cause.

Ms Formolo is the project coordinator, Strengthening and Capacity Building of Caritas Cooperatives in the Archdiocese of Kampala