Uganda Cooperative Alliance is not any more a supreme apex. It radically changed to become a training catalyst who assists co-operatives to re-organise their approach and their structure. It is a very flexible structure that is controlled by whoever decides to become a member. Many area co-operatives took this opportunity and they are more dynamic than the previous arrangement which was a succession of delegates’ delegates of delegates. At the end of the day, the big shots who were representing the people, cared very few for the cooperatives which they were meant to speak for. UCA lost its past prestige of being an apex, although inefficient, to become a rather small organisation but which is member based and member concerned.
A small core team composed of the Secretary and his Deputy handle administrative issues as well as management of funds. It financially relies on members’ subscriptions and incomes from its own investment. Development and educational programmes are specifically donors funded and they are targeted at grass-root level activities. Implemented programmes focus on business development for area co-operatives, training in building capacities in management and accounting and women empowerment in the cooperative movement.
Two years after the reform, one can say that the changes are obvious. There is more participation and more women involvement. Integrated services at the local area are facilitated by the village banks. Since all transcations are done locally and that different actors’ money is managed by the same local village bank, economy is boosted in these areas. Co-operatives compete with private traders to buy agricultural products and increase their added value locally. Village banks are the central vital institution in the new set-up. Such banks need that their members are strong enough before being fully established - 10 million shillings in capital shares (650,000 euros)and 30 million shillings in savings (2,000,000 euros). Cooperatives can play a role in the democratisation process since they are the most ancient democratic structure that has been existing in rural Uganda.
Communication technologies change the movement. Computerisation of the area co-operative and the introduction of cellular phones allow new flows of information that can directly benefit the farmers.
5. Relationships with donors
UCA already successfully managed STABEX funds from the European Union. After the collapse of the Cotton Board, it helped to purchase cotton within the new co-operative structure. It shows that one can still be confident in co-operatives since the funds was duely used and reimbursed. This contributed to improve the image of the co-operative, inside and outside of the movement.
It is now crucial that donors understand that village banks need to be financially fed in order to boost the local economy and the local actors. Village banks become permanent funding institutions in the area and this is the best way to sustain economical activities of the members and hence their well being.