Originally published on August 13, 2014.
Smallholder dairy farmers increasingly appreciate the importance of joining cooperatives, since they enable them to access needed inputs and services, and earn higher prices for their milk by bulking it with others. As hubs for uniting diverse constituencies along common goals, cooperatives also have the potential for enhancing members’ access to other social services, including financing, education and health. But, to achieve their true potential, cooperatives need opportunities to engage more broadly with one another, and see how collaboration – rather than competition – can make their individual groups even stronger.
Enabling this broader learning among cooperatives and facilitating vertical and horizontal linkages is a cornerstone of Land O’Lakes International Development’s five-year Cooperative Development Program (CDP). Made possible by the American people through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Land O’Lakes launched the International Dairy Enterprise Alliance (IDEA) and its Cooperative-to-Cooperative Learning Series in February 2012 in Nairobi, Kenya. The series is part of the CDP, which aims to transform the paradigms of how cooperatives engage with one another.
At this IDEA inaugural event, 43 industry thought leaders, cooperative managers and board members – representing 28 cooperatives from nine countries – came together to share their experiences and knowledge with one another.
Maale Kayongo of HealthPartners (left) shakes hands with George Nuwagira of the Uganda Crane Creameries Cooperative Union.
An embodiment of the event’s success was evidenced through the formation of a promising partnership between George Nuwagira, Chairman of the Uganda Crane Creameries Cooperative Union (UCCCU) and Maale Kayongo, Operations Manager of HealthPartners (HP). UCCCU represents 103 primary cooperative societies and nearly 15,000 farmer members. HealthPartners Cooperative is a community based health insurance model that empowers local stakeholders, including women and the poor, to access care, to recognize and demand quality, and to improve health outcomes.
When George and Maale met at the inaugural IDEA Learning Series, they immediately recognized opportunities for collaboration. “One of the most serious challenges UCCCU members face is ajali aina kinga, meaning that a farmer cannot predict when he or she will get sick, or how to pay for treatment,” said George. By connecting UCCCU members with HP, they will be able to select a health care provider of their choice, pay a quarterly premium, and ensure they always have access to sound healthcare.
Eager to integrate a health component into UCCCU as soon as possible, George and Maale arranged to meet with the Manager of UCCCU immediately following the conclusion of the IDEA Learning Series. HealthPartners is currently sensitizing UCCCU’s leaders to their health insurance model and working with UCCCU’s stakeholders to ascertain their health care priorities.
“Facilitating access to quality health services, where you need it and when you need it, is one of the most important socioeconomic benefits a cooperative can provide to its members,” explained George. “It gives them peace of mind, and makes them feel secure.”
Land O’Lakes plans to host a second Learning Series event and launch a knowledge portal for sharing information and best practices between IDEA participants. To date, Land O’Lakes International Development’s programs have built or strengthened over 3,000 cooperatives worldwide.