Eight Canadian co-operators are visiting Uganda to learn about CCA’s Integrated Finance and Agricultural Production Initiative (IFAPI) model. CCA and the Uganda Co-operative Alliance have developed an innovative approach to rural development by linking agricultural co-operatives, marketing co-ops and savings and credit co-operatives.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Uganda: Unplugged - Karen Timoshuk

Since Sunday, we have been traveling north central Uganda hearing personal stories of how membership in local co-operatives has literally made the lives of some men, women and children worth living. As over-the-top as that might sound, the wounds afflicted by years of civil war remain open for tortured Ugandans and orphans. HIV/AIDS is a skeleton, either in or out of the closet, for most families. Such stories have been clustered within a couple of the co-ops we’ve visited painting an alarming picture of the necessity of co-ops for those of us who can’t remember our co-op number when paying for our groceries. In a country where life expectancy is 53, half of the population is under 15, and one’s access to credit is out of reach because interest rates in banks can well exceed 30% with hidden fees, it’s no surprise that co-op meetings start with prayer.

It’s truly exciting to see how, during UN 2012 International Year of Co-operatives, Canadian co-ops and credit unions have either begun to donate or have generously topped up their current donations to the Co-operative Development Foundation recognizing the role, or perhaps responsibility, they have to play in building a better world through a business model that we take for granted back home.

In order to appreciate one’s lot in life, one must never forget where they have been. Ugandans have figured this out to a science recognizing that all victories, however small in the eyes of a foreigner, are to be celebrated. Our Canadian Co-operative Association study mission team finds this outlook on life contagious. We have so much to learn about life from our Ugandan neighbours in this small world of ours.

For those looking for the words of the Karen you know, you have laughed with, cried with, that you’ve grown up with, in the words of Arnold, I’ll be back…..

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