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Cooperatives Call For Farmers’ Bank

by Jacquiline Nakandi
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By Moses Nampala

Spirited efforts of reviving the farmers’ bank (Cooperative bank) has received a fresh boost after the farmer cooperatives in eastern Uganda, unanimously endorsed in favour of the proposal.

Representatives of farmers’ cooperative unions in regions of Bukedi, Busoga, Bugisu, Teso and Sebei, in the endorsement, stressed that the revival of the cooperative bank was fundamental as it is bound to create instant positive changes in the lives of the peasant community, now wallowing in abject poverty.

“The revival of the bank is set to energise the rural economy. The latest development is set to stimulate renewed vigour among the farmer community as they shall easily access credit that is at a considerably low interest rate,” the cooperators said.

Fred Ngobi Gume, the cooperatives state minister, received the cooperators’ endorsement at the end of a two-day consultative forum organised by Uganda Cooperative Alliance the (UCA), held at Rosewood Hotel in Mbale city.

The cooperators regrettably observed that dissolving of cooperatives by government, in favour of liberalisation/ divestiture/privatisation model more than three decades ago, has yielded a retrogressive economic framework responsible for wider lurking poverty among the population across the nation.

The cooperators observed that while it cannot be disputed that for the last three decades the growth of the economy has registered progress, the liberal/divestiture model has largely benefited a small business and political elite in the urban area, leaving the community at the country side that constitute the majority, drawn in increasing income inequality and abject poverty.

“The over-the-hill trajectory has resulted in massive rural-urban migration, in search for livelihood,” the cooperators said.

Nicholas Werikhe (Bugisu cooperative union), who read the endorsement on behalf of cooperators, further observed that as government considers to revive the cooperative bank, it ought to have evaluated the losses the individual cooperatives suffered.

“We expect the Government to take stock of losses that cooperatives suffered and consider compensating the unions accordingly,” cooperators said.

They also stressed that revival of cooperatives ought to be done basing on sustainable models that are blended with citizen-centred approaches to wealth creation and human dignity.

“Attempts of reviving cooperatives as a viable vehicle for all inclusive self-transformation purposes ought to be cognisant of the current Uganda context, state of the economy, state of agriculture and demographics realities, among others.

Earlier, Suzan Amero, the Amuria Woman MP, observed that agitation for revival of cooperatives was timely as it would see an end to decades of exploitation.

She gratefully observed that colossal sums of money have, time and again, been appropriated by Parliament to go towards the cause of ordinary farmers through numerous programmes.

Amero, however, further said because none of the banking institutions — through which the funds have been channelled — are indigenous, no substantive impact has been realised on ground.

Interrogation of the relevant Parliament committee has always yielded damning findings.

Majority of the banks that government has entrusted to undertake the noble chore of supporting the farmers’ community have instead made a killing in these programmes as they have quietly lent the same funds at much higher interests to big businessmen and traders, repatriating profits to their respective homes.

James Olobo Kioga, Amolatar MP, also a member of the parliamentary committee on trade, is a national top farmer, having won an award in 2014.

He said: “When the tractors are dispatched here, they will be put under the management of cooperatives.”

Ngobi said plans of reviving the bank were at an advanced stage. He said: “Arrangements by government to revive the cooperative bank have opted to pursue a least-cost re-entry mechanism, bottom of this all, to create a flexible cooperative movement that promotes citizens’ self-economic transformation and vitality.”

Historical challenges

Ivan Asiimwe, the secretary general of Uganda Cooperative Alliance (the apex body of the cooperative movement), observed that the cooperative movement has had a long turbulent history, but every time it has risen up to its cause, it has emerged victorious.

He traces the woes of the cooperative from 1913.

“Unfair trading terms favoured Asians and Europeans for cotton and coffee exports.

The Government, then, had observed the unjustly dynamics in trade, but paid a deaf ear,” Asiimwe said.

However, he noted that the persistent agitation for fair trade by ordinary farmers, has slowly began to bear fruit.

LEAD PHOTO CAPTION: Minister of State for Cooperatives Gume (third[1]right) receives an endorsement from Werikhe (fifth-right) at Rose Wood Hotel recently.

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