The Trade Ministry notes that many of the registered co-operatives were experiencing governance and operational challenges
President Yoweri Museveni touring an exhibition stall during the BUBU expo in March
The talk of reviving cooperatives so they can regain their rightful place at the country’s economic table is not new. What is new is the progress and strategy taken to achieve this. During the 1960s, the cooperatives were a thriving movement as they were the vehicles of agricultural production and marketing.
But the 1970s and 1980s saw the country witness turbulent political and economic times that affected every sector, including the cooperatives. The liberation war (1978-1979), the guerrilla war (1980-86) and the insurgencies that prevailed in some parts of the country there after eroded the business and asset base of a number of co-operative unions and societies.
The affected co-operatives lost their productive assets. The destruction took the form of razing buildings to the ground, vandalism of houses, property, equipment mainly machinery and factory production lines, theft of valuable assets such as vehicles, livestock, stocks of cotton and coffee.
However, as time went by, the Government and a few surviving echoed the need to have the former economic vehicles revived. In a ‘self-defense’ move, different co-operative societies petitioned the Government seeking compensation for the losses incurred during the war periods.
According to information from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Co-operatives, 22 co-operatives lodged in claims for compensation amounting to sh197b. According to Amelia Kyambadde, the Trade Minister, about sh21b has so far been paid out in compensation to seven different co-operatives a balance of sh135b unpaid.
The compensated co-operatives include Bunyoro Growers Cooperative Union Ltd, Masaka Co-operative Union Ltd, Teso Cooperative Union, North Bukedi Cooperative Union, Masaba Growers Co-operative Union Ltd, Busoga Growers Co-operative Union Ltd and Lango Co-operative Union Ltd.
The compensation is meant to boost the co-operatives’ economic muscles as they attempt to revive their past glory.
Over 1,200 co-operatives registered
A total of 1,258 more co-operatives were registered during fi nancial year 2018/19 and this brought the total number to over 20,128 as of June this year, according to information from the Trade Ministry. Majority of these, 9,062 and 8722 are agricultural marketing and SACCOs respectively.
These account for close to 90% of all registered co-operatives. The other co-operatvives are in the sectors of dairy, housing, energy and transport while others are multipurpose ones.
The Trade Ministry notes that many of the registered co-operatives were experiencing governance and operational challenges due to inadequacies in co-operative knowledge and skills. This necessitated making it a requirement for prospective cooperative groups to undergo training as one of the ways of preparing them for registration.
During the year under review, the Sector carried out intensive training with 250 co-operatives to equip their members and leaders with the requisite skills. The participants were equipped with skills in governance, credit and default management, fi nancial literacy and co-operative enterprise management.
However, due to the number of registered co-operatives, there is need for continuous education, training and providing information to members for sustainable development of co-operatives in the country.