By Hakiim Wampamba
Post-independence Uganda saw the birth of cooperatives which would later become a household name among farmers.
With them, farmers did not have to worry about the prices of their farm products. Almost every region had a cooperative society to which a farmer belonged
Then came Uganda’s post-independence crisis of the 70s and 80’s which saw the economy crash.
Many cooperatives were not spared and a few struggled to stay afloat. Some of these still exit mostly by name.
Given their contribution to the sector, government is now moving to revive them, beginning with those that existed before the war
The minister of state for Cooperatives Fredrick Gume said so far Shs 88 billion has been earmarked to kickstart the process and compensate some that lost assets during the 1981-1986 war.
He said the number of registered cooperatives in Uganda stands at slightly above 30,000 but active ones sare only 26.
“There is a committee which is comprised of relevant ministries like the ministries of Agriculture, Trade, Justice and Defence that is going to visit different cooperatives and receive the claims. The committee will then move to verify the claims after which compensation for the war losses will be done,” Gume said.
Joshua Karaire, the chief executive officer of the Uganda Cooperative Transport Union said more government efforts are required to restore the cooperatives to their lost glory including revival of the defunct Cooperative Bank
“First there needs to be revival of the Cooperative bank which used to provide affordable financing for farmers ,but the most important thing now is to fully compensate the cooperatives for the war losses. Uganda Cooperative Transport Union for example needs Shs 10 billion in compensation,” he said.
Dr. Francis Mwesigye a researcher from the Economic Policy Research Center says that since Uganda’s Vision 2040 is anchored on industrialisation, value addition, import substitution and export promotion, now is the time for the government to support its vision through cooperatives.