The role of Cooperatives in climate change adaptation

Coffee is a lucrative cash crop for smallholder farmers around the globe but the impacts of climate change remain a serious threat. The climate risks range from intense droughts to unpredictable rain patterns and their impacts are very problematic including increased incidents of pest and diseases and post-harvest losses. Nevertheless, rural farmers’ organizations which are also known as cooperatives, can play a key role in building coffee farmer’s resilience to climate change.

Cooperatives offer great platforms for trainings on climate-smart practices. Through Cooperative Extensionists who are well versed in coffee management and climate adaptation, the knowledge can be spread to many farmers. Additionally, through services like collective bulking, processing and marketing which cooperatives offer their members, farmers can earn more profit from their coffee thus increasing their ability to invest in climate-smart practices. Additionally, collective saving enables cooperatives to invest in climate-smart technologies and machinery that their members can use to improve their resilience to climate change. Cooperatives also offer increased access to genuine agro-inputs such as drought tolerant and disease resistant coffee seedlings, fertilizers and pesticides.

However, many cooperatives in Uganda do not operate as strong and professional enterprises. They need support to enhance service delivery to their members and improve their overall position in the coffee value chain. For these reasons, International Coffee Partners (ICP) is focusing on strengthening and professionalizing 12 Cooperatives who represent over 5,000 farming households in the districts of Luwero, Nakaseke and Nakasongola. The project which began in October 2020 is implemented by Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung (HRNS).

In Uganda, one of the ICP project’s focus is to build strong, efficient and professional farmer organizations that effectively offer inclusive services to their members.

Victor Komakech

Climate Change Coordinator HRNS Uganda

Capacity Building of Cooperatives and Their Extensionists

Komakech gave insights into how ICP is building the capacity of Ugandan cooperatives: “We administered a tool called the Organizational Development Scorecard to assess the performance of the 12 cooperatives that are part of the project. Based on those outcomes, we are now supporting each cooperative to create a development action plan.” The development plans guide HRNS’ Field Officers on what topics the cooperative leaders and members need to be strengthened on. Topics range from coffee management, climate-smart adaptation and mitigation, leadership and governance, business planning, resource mobilization, marketing and more. The team in Uganda are also currently in the process of developing a training manual and a facilitators guide as reference materials for cooperative leaders and extensionists.

Trainings on Climate-smart Practices

Trainings on climate-smart practices and Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) continue to be an essential part of ICP’s interventions in Uganda. This will not only build cooperative member’s resilience to climate change, but also improve the quality of the coffee the cooperative members produce.

Gender Sensitization Trainings

ICP also aims to increase gender sensitization which will result in more female leaders and decision-makers in the cooperative’s management. These women will influence and effect cooperative’s policies so that more women become members and participate in activities and trainings on climate-smart practices which are offered through the cooperatives.

Female cooperative leaders loading bulked coffee for processing – Luwero, Uganda

Female cooperative leader voicing her opinion during a management meeting – Luwero, Uganda

Cooperation to Scale-up Climate Change Mitigation

In Uganda, ICP plans to go much further than promoting climate-smart agriculture for improved livelihoods. It will also consider side effects like increased use of agrochemicals and offer solutions like carbon offsetting systems to minimize the carbon emissions of farmers. This goal will only be achieved and accelerated through the cooperation of cooperatives and other players in the coffee value chain.

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