Empowering Kenyan Cooperatives:The Transformative Impact of We Effect

Baringo Agricultural Marketing Services Cooperative Society Limited staff savoring a refreshing packet of HILO milk at the factory premises in Kenya. Photo : George Kamau
Baringo Agricultural Marketing Services Cooperative Society Limited staff savoring a refreshing packet of HILO milk at the factory premises in Kenya. Photo : George Kamau
Beatrice Lagat, dairy farmer from Eldama Ravine, Kenya. Photo: George Kamau

Cooperatives have long been recognized as a powerful force for socio-economic development, particularly in developing countries. In Kenya, where agricultural activities play a crucial role in the livelihoods of many, cooperatives have become vital institutions for smallholder farmers.

We Effect is at the forefront of making a significant difference by supporting and strengthening these cooperatives in Kenya and East Africa. We are champions of cooperatives and focus on promoting sustainable development and adequate housing through support for cooperatives and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). With a particular emphasis on agricultural cooperatives, We provide technical assistance, capacity building, and financial support to enhance the effectiveness and sustainability of cooperatives in Kenya and beyond.

We Effect primarily works with primary and secondary cooperatives. Initial assessments are conducted to identify gaps and form the basis for interventions aimed at strengthening the cooperatives. Strengthening the lower and middle-level cooperatives is essential for fostering sustainable cooperation and building strong networks. This involves capacity building and assisting them in organizing themselves and forming sector networks and federations at the national level.

One of our transformative impacts can be seen through its work with two cooperatives in Kenya: Baringo Agricultural Marketing Services Cooperative Society Limited (BAMSCOS) and the Kipkelion District Cooperative Union Limited.

BAMSCOS, based in Baringo County, Kenya, is a prime example of how We Effect has positively influenced cooperatives. Historically, the cooperative faced challenges such as limited market access, inadequate infrastructure, and a lack of financial resources. We Effect intervened by providing training programs on organizational development and advocacy, production and productivity, value addition, and linkage to gainful markets.

Baringo Agricultural Marketing Services Cooperative Society Limited staff savoring a refreshing packet of HILO milk at the factory premises in Kenya. Photo: George Kamau

Over the last decade, the cooperative has transitioned to processing and marketing its milk under its own brand in the market. This shift has led to increased incomes and producer prices for milk. The dairy farmers in Baringo, Kenya, now package their milk under the name HILO, representing both Baringo’s highland and lowland dairy farmers.

The registered membership in affiliate organizations stands at 17,000 members, with 13,194 active members, of which 30% are women.

We Effect has played a crucial role in promoting gender equality within BAMSCOS. By supporting dual membership, where spouses are individual members, We Effect aims to bridge the gender gap in the dairy value chain. Women contribute significantly to dairy farming but often face limited opportunities to voice their opinions or propose alternative ideas. We Effect’s initiatives aim to address these imbalances and ensure women have a fair share in resource access, utilization, and contributions to the community policy framework.

The impact of our intervention has been remarkable. The cooperative now enjoys improved market linkages, enabling farmers to sell their produce at fair prices and obtain better profits. We Effect’s support has also enabled BAMSCOS to invest in modern infrastructure, such as storage facilities, reducing post-harvest losses and improving product quality. Moreover, We Effect has facilitated financial inclusion efforts, and BAMSCOS is in the process of receiving funding to establish a milk processing plant from OikoCredit under the Innovative Finance for Improved Livelihood (IFIL) project, a joint project by We Effect and the Church of Sweden, with support from SIDA.

Feastus Bett, Kipkelion District Cooperative Union Ltd. Photo: George Kamau

Another success story of We Effect’s impact on Kenyan cooperatives is the Kipkelion District Cooperative Union Limited, which focuses primarily on coffee production and value addition. Before We Effect’s intervention, the union faced challenges such as low productivity, limited market access, and weak bargaining power.

We Effect stepped in by providing technical support and training on best agricultural practices, including sustainable coffee production and processing techniques. The cooperative members received training on value addition, quality control, and marketing strategies.

As a result, the cooperative recently completed a direct sale of 134.4 metric tons (MT) of coffee to South Korea, valued at USD 908,160. Additionally, there was a request for two more containers of 40 MT of coffee from the same buyer, totaling nine containers of 174.4 MT. The sale proceeds will benefit 9,582 smallholder farmers across Kericho, Nandi, and Bomet counties, at an estimated rate of Ksh 100 (SEK 100) per kilogram of cherry.

This achievement was made possible through the successful Seoul Coffee Expo, held in July 2021 in South Korea, which was coordinated by the Ministry of Trade and the Coffee Subsector Reforms Implementation Standing Committee (CSRISC). The direct sale represents a significant milestone for smallholder coffee farmers, as it allows them to interact and negotiate directly with buyers rather than relying on marketing agents.

We Effect’s advocacy initiatives have also been instrumental in promoting the licensing of coffee cooperatives as marketing agents, opening doors for market diversification in emerging and fast-growing Asian coffee-consuming countries.

Through its interventions, We Effect has brought about significant improvements in the Kipkelion District Cooperative Union Limited. Coffee production has increased, the quality of coffee has improved, and cooperative members have experienced higher incomes. The union has become more self-reliant and empowered, with strengthened negotiating power and increased participation in decision-making processes.

These success stories of BAMSCOS and the Kipkelion District Cooperative Union Limited highlight the broader impact of We Effect’s interventions in Kenya. By strengthening cooperatives, We Effect has improved livelihoods and food security. The cooperatives supported by We Effect have become resilient, self-sustaining entities that empower farmers and foster sustainable community development.

The impact of We Effect on Kenyan cooperatives, exemplified by the successes of BAMSCOS and the Kipkelion District Cooperative Union Limited, cannot be overstated. Through the provision of knowledge and resources, We Effect has empowered farmers, improved market access, and enhanced agricultural productivity. The organization’s efforts have demonstrated the immense potential of cooperatives in driving sustainable development and poverty reduction.

We continue to enable sustainable cooperation through stronger networks by creating partnerships to leverage knowledge. For example, the Leadership for Change Course (LFC), which has been running for over 20 years, was initially managed by the Uganda Cooperative Alliance (UCA) but has evolved and is now run by the Cooperative University in Kenya, Kigumba Cooperative College in Uganda, and starting this year, Moshi University in Tanzania. Other platforms, such as networks with expertise in cooperatives, have been established to leverage knowledge, including KUSCCO, Cooperative Bank, Cooperative Insurance Services, etc.

The future belongs to the young adults/youth and cooperatives need to develop strategies of making cooperatives appealing to the young people by introducing them to the cooperative model of business early in their lives. It is through our collective efforts that we can inspire and engage the youth, ensuring that cooperatives become attractive and meaningful pathways for their economic and social advancement.

We also strive to nurture new upcoming cooperatives to grow by promoting grassroot cooperatives to form sector networks and federations which can support them to compete in the highly competitive small-scale business sector.

Through continued support and collaboration, We Effect continues to raise awareness and foster positive change within the cooperative sector.