Cooperatives are organizations that bring together people with a common interest of pulling resources together in order to carry out a mutual activity that will benefit them all. There are hundreds of cooperatives in Kenya including those for farmers. Some have been very successful.
One such farmers’ cooperative is Githunguri Dairy Farmers in Kiambu. It started as a small group of 31 small scale holders and today it has 12,000 members, owns a dairy processing plant with a turnover of over 1 billion Kenya shillings. In order for farmers’ cooperatives to succeed, they must be built on sound professional, technical and business strategies. Githunguri has managed to do this by organizing itself this way:
- Commercial activities and benefits to members
They have established farmer service stores where members can access inputs such as feeds, medicine and AI services at subsidized prices. The stores also stock human foods like flour, fat, rice and other consumables that members can get on credit based on their milk delivery record. You present your voucher and you get the goods. This acts a motivation and encourages farmers to produce more.
- Services improvement to members
Apart from AI services, members are organized in regions where they receive extension and training services. These are done on monthly basis and cover topics such as breeding, clean milk production, farm planning, agricultural business; crop husbandry and animal diseases and disease prevention. This means the members are well informed and have access to important information to improve their productivity.
This is where most cooperatives fail. Leaders are interfered with by political and ethnic interests of members causing squabbles and dysfunction leading low productivity. In Githunguri the top positions are competitively advertised in media and currently their managers are dairy related professionals with advanced degrees and no roots in Githunguri area.
Discuss with your farm cooperative how you can improve productivity.