Using the Co-operative Model to build Synergies in the Turkana Community

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Case of Ngaremara Livestock Market Co-operative

‘The EU funded project – ‘Drought Resilient Isiolo County’ could not have come at a better time in when the ASAL regions are facing even more challenges including high poverty levels, harsh climatic conditions and constant failure in Businesses.

In Kenya, cooperatives are responsible for 45% GDP as they play an important role in contribution of theGlobal Economy. There is a clear direct relationship between sustainability and how co-operatives describe themselves. Isiolo County has got a total number of 69 registered cooperatives of which 56 are active and 13 are inactive.

The last 2 months has seen interesting development for Ngaremara Livestock Market Association, an activity that was marked for cooperative strengthening by E4Impact. In a world where the rich continually get richer and the poor get poorer, the Turkana community who are considered as a minority group in Isiolo continue to suffer from food insecurity, low education levels and massive exploitation from their counterparts including cattle rustling.

Ngaremara which is entirely occupied by the Turkana community is a unique community that still holds dearly to their traditional cultural practices. Due to their nomadic way of life, they had no centralized governance system. In the year 2018, the rural people in Ngaremara decided that they suffered enough at the hands of others and formed a Livestock Market Association with barely 40 members. It is for this cause that E4Impact came in to strengthen and aid in the upgrading of the Livestock Market Association to a co-operative, and help in developing a Sustainable Business Model.

As the African Proverb goes: ‘If you help a man manage his fish pen, he will feed the whole community’. Before E4Impact’s intervention, Ngaremara Livestock Market Association looked so miserable in their way of doing things. At first glance, it was clear that the members knew very little about co-operative rules and principles. In fact, the co-operative was being run as a ‘merry go round’. They lacked the core skills in co-operative management such as managing finances, record keeping, group management and operation skills which acted as a barrier to their growth.

E4Impact intervention has been a journey ranging from trainings in group dynamics, constitutional development, record and financial management, tax compliance to auditing the association. Among these activities, one of the most impactful one was on developing a Sustainable Business Model that would help run the co-operative for a long period of time and aid in scaling up this business. Bearing in mind that most of the co-operative members had low education, Business Model Design as we thought would become a hard bone to crack. Surprisingly, Ngaremara became among the best groups who were so excited to learn about this new phenomenon. The Business Model Design training was delivered to the members in a simplified manner and use of the community examples to ensure they grasped the concepts which they would apply continually to improve the Association’s value proposition to members and help in accelerating its commercial activities.

To date, Ngaremara Livestock co-operative has got 122 registered members and it is growing. The members who are parents from the group and could not afford school fees and food for their family can now relax knowing that there is hope at the end of the tunnel. One member who has benefited for this co-operative is Mr. Ekai – who received Kshs 85,000 to buy a motorbike to operate his business which has now helped him construct a house for his family.

In terms of cognitive play and life-event simulation, the utility of Ngaremara story lies in considering the relative merits of risk-taking in a world whose intentions and motivations vary and may be difficult to detect. For these pastoralists whose life-style is following after their animals daily, adopting and starting to implement the Business Model Design is a paradigm shift. Soon, Ngaremara co-operative will become the icon of Isiolo in terms of livestock trade.

E4Impact Foundation is implementing the component on Enterprise Development in the  ‘Drought Resilience in Isiolo County’ (DRIC) Project funded by European Union and is working with women groups across Isiolo County particularly in offering capacity building in Group operations, management and introduction & development of Sustainable Business models for the groups that is aimed at Strengthening the group’s operations and accelerate the group’s businesses to achieve sustainability. The trainings are tailored and aimed at equipping the groups with skills to pursue new livelihoods and adapt technology to their needs.

DRIC project is implemented with a consortium of partners: VSF-Suisse/Kenya, WeWorld Onlus,   E4Impact Foundation, Comitato Collaborazione Medica (CCM) and SOMIRENEC

Article by: Elishiba Ngugi

 Isiolo Project Co-ordinator – E4Impact

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