In July 2016, three workshops were organized with the participation of the VSLA group leaders. The discussions focused around the topic of different possibilities in evolving the VSLA activity, specifically addressing the issue of how to best make use of the profits the groups and the group members make.
The VSLA model successfully running, the members have been able to borrow for various enterprises consequently increasing their income. In addition to personal gains, many groups also have the social fund intact at the end of the cycle, which they thought would be best if used for a common project. As an attempt to have their income invested in a profitable way, and also as a gesture of group solidarity, the group representatives agreed that some form of common venture would be the best option to go forward with.
Considering the main source of livelihood of Sironko and the rural areas the groups operate in, it was natural that the common area of interest in terms of merging into a business was agriculture and, more specifically, formation of a farmer cooperative.
The region segmented in 2 zones, the upper Mountainous zone will predominantly focus on production of:- 1. Coffee, Matooke /bananas/ Onions as the major cash crops, while the lower lands zone will focus on grains and legumes mainly beans,= and maize initially.
As a farmer cooperative, members would be able to have collective bargaining power, manage storage, and bulk marketing and acquisition of farm inputs as well as access to credit in order to boost their agricultural productivity.
Arabica Coffee- Mount Elgon Slopes:
The main crops mentioned were maize, beans, potatoes, passion fruit,bananas, onions and other grains. As the group leaders don’t have know how or experience in how to go about forming such cooperatives, they suggested that Seeds support them to work towards establishing a Credit Cooperative owned by all the NEW Foundation groups collectively.
Through a SACCO, members could make bigger agricultural investments. In particular, they desired that the Credit Cooperative would enable them to acquire farm inputs (tools, fertilizers,storage facilities), which are hard to acquire as individuals. The cooperative would also attract other development practitioners who target mobilized groups for grants or supply of inputs.
In this case a multipurpose Cooperative model was proposed that consists of three different components, namely :-
– Area Cooperative Entreprise (ACE)
– Rural Producer Organizations (RPOs)