Cooperative Enterprises Help Bring Prosperity to Families

By Meg Carter, ChildFund Sponsorship Communication Specialist

When colleagues visit me in Northern California from overseas, we often have lunch at Arizmendi Bakery. Sitting at a small, round table, my friends eat the bakery’s signature sourdough pizza topped with the day’s combination — perhaps fresh corn, poblano chiles, sundried tomatoes, homemade mozzarella cheese, lime juice, olive oil and cilantro parmesan. It’s sweet, spicy, salty, tart, creamy, chewy and crisp.

Arizmendi is more than just a good place for lunch; it is actually a collective of six cooperative bakeries in the San Francisco Bay area. The workers are part owners, and this is a good place to bring my international colleagues, who are interested in how cooperatives play an important role in developing countries.

Zambia cooperative

These youth in Zambia grow fruits and vegetables, which they then sell in markets.

Today is the International Day of Cooperatives, and this year’s theme is achieving sustainable development through cooperative enterprises.

Zambia’s first president, Kenneth Kaunda, understood their value. From the start, he encouraged groups of 10 people to register as cooperatives, moving them from unemployment to employment, often in agriculture. Today, the Ministry of Agriculture still oversees Zambia’s cooperatives. Lusaka’s Cooperative College is one of the nation’s 11 agricultural training institutions, and more than half of the country’s population is engaged in agriculture.

In 2002, ChildFund Zambia began developing coops in rural communities; we now support 13 in the Chibombo, Chongwe, Mumbwa and Kafue districts. We link these producer-owners to government agencies for seeds, training and motivational events, as well as to the Zambia National Farmers Union for mobile phone-based market information. More than 100 of ChildFund’s parents benefit directly as cooperative members, while other families participate in seed distribution, crop marketing and field demonstrations.

Training in value chain analysis helps the coop members increase profits by selling grain to Zambia’s Food Reserve Agency. Members also reduce soil degradation by replacing chemical fertilizers with organic manure, as well as compost from food scraps or fertilizer prepared from goat droppings, known as manure tea. Coops professionalize small family farms, beginning with the establishment of cooperative governing boards. Members gain financial security through bank accounts with NATSAVE, Zambia’s National Savings and Credit Bank.

Juliet Mundia is secretary of a coop in Nachibila Village, Mumbwa District. In just five years, its 20 men and 15 women have constructed a grain shed to store their rain-fed maize (corn) and groundnut (peanut) harvests. They re-invest their profits each season into farming tools — shovels, pitchforks, watering cans, vegetable drying racks and knapsack sprayers. Trained in small livestock rearing and vegetable production, they now have a herd of goats and chickens. Their gardens, newly planted with greens, tomatoes, green pepper and cabbage, produce vegetables for sale locally and in Lusaka. With the proceeds, these families educate their children and provide them with proper nutrition and health care.

Each month Juliet and her husband sell 20 chickens, five goats and about $25 worth of vegetables. This season they expect to produce 35,000 kilograms of maize and 1,500 kilos of groundnuts. A vibrant woman, Juliet tells of how she quadrupled her income, bringing her family hope for the future. You can help too by purchasing garden tools through our gift catalog.

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