It is our belief that cooperatives are still relevant in Uganda based on the changes that the models have already undergone since the 1980s through the reform initiatives made by the Uganda Cooperatives Alliance(UCA). Though liberalization and the wide dispersion of technological accessibility have indeed led to the collapse/dysfunction of many of the institutions within the earlier cooperative models, there was still political will to maintain the existence of cooperatives for good reasons.
In a policy note on the Revival of Agricultural Cooperatives in Uganda (Kwapong 2010, it was noted that the changes in the representation of farmers along with the establishment of self-sustaining, autonomous support organs have led to increases in welfare by way of incomes and other benefits for farmers, derived from maintaining membership with cooperatives. Training and education, as well as access to financing and the promotion of product diversification are all initiatives that were undertaken by the reformed cooperatives to take advantage of the advances appended to the process of liberalization. Where perceptions of income have increased in rural farming communities (Kwapong 2010), cooperatives have played a key role in the reduction of rural poverty in Uganda. Rural farmers reported that they were able to provide their families with three meals a day as a result of the increases in income brought about by cooperative membership. The organizations established within the UCA's umbrella: Rural Producer Organizations (RPOs); Area Cooperative Enterprises(ACEs) and Savings and Credit Cooperative Organizations(SAACOs) have effectively allowed for autonomous self-sustaining business and democratic units that offer support for members, who have grown in number over the years. The intimacy of these organizations has allowed for cooperatives to effectively provide welfare improvements to farmers and their families.
Though the ubiquity of communications technology has the potential to derail traditional collective efforts through the advancement of individual enterprise and opportunity, there can be no replacement of the benefit that reformed cooperatives have brought to rural communities by way of enhancements in knowledge, productivity, profitability, income and food security.
The FSN Forum is supported by the project Coherent food security responses: incorporating right to food into global and regional food security initiatives.