| By Nancy Mukelabai |

One of the ways of supporting and strengthening farmers in their agriculture enterprises is through organized cooperative societies. In view of this, government through the Department of Cooperatives in the Ministry of Agriculture is mandated to among others create an enabling institutional environment for the development of autonomous, transport, viable and demand driven cooperatives that will contribute to wealth creation and poverty reduction.

Litulilo Cooperative MembersA number of cooperatives have been formed in Kalabo district in Western province in order to improve their livelihood through various activities. Kalabo District Cooperatives Inspector Kamuliwo Kalumbwa discloses that presently they are 42 registered cooperatives but only seven are very active. Most cooperatives in the district are engaged into agriculture of growing and marketing rice while a few are multipurpose.

A case in point is of one of the successful cooperative societies is Litulilo Multipurpose Cooperative Society located in Kanduba village of Siyongo area. The cooperative society was formed in 2004 and officially registered in 2009 with a membership of 33. But the membership has reduced to 12 due to non-payment of contributing shares. However, the few remaining members of the cooperative have taken up various activities such as gardening, poultry, goat rearing and establishing of a small grocery.

Gardening is one of the first activities cooperative members ventured in. They grew vegetables such as rape, tomatoes, cabbage, onions, Chinese cabbage and okra. They sold these products to the local market and gained reasonable profits. The profits earned were utilized to expand their entrepreneurial activities by start poultry and goat production. Unfortunately, their poultry and goat production suffered a setback, as they faced challenges of disease outbreaks and theft from the local community.

This prompted cooperative members opted to establish a small grocery in Kandumba village where items such as salt, pens, pencils, school books, razor blades, sugar, cigarettes, matches, cooking oil, bathing and washing soap are sold.

Litulilo Community Multipurpose Cooperative Chairperson David Katuya disclosed that they decided to engage into trading business as they were still deciding as a team on other business ventures.

“As the village is just eight kilometres from the boma, as Litulilo cooperative members we decided to be selling items that are easily bought at village level. This will enable us realize profit as you know that a person can’t walk eight kilometres for a packet of salt. So our business is making so much profit to keep our cooperative running, we are selling small daily needs at house hold level,” disclosed Mr Katuya.

Additionally, Litulilo cooperative benefitted from the Zambia Cooperative Federation through the Presidential Empowerment Programme, a solar rice meal plant which they will use to add value to the rice by processing and packaging it. The solar rice meal plant was at a cost of K 400,000. The solar rice meal plant has not yet started functioning due to the drought of the 2018 to 2019 farming season which saw few farmers harvest rice.

“We are so happy and grateful as a cooperative to have benefitted a solar rice meal plant which we applied for, as you know that Kalabo is the home of rice, we hope to benefit when we start processing and packaging our rice. It will make us generate income which we so much need for our households,” said Mr Katuya.

The revamping of the cashew sub sector in Western province by the Cashew Infrastructure Development Project (CIDP) has seen members of Litulilo Multipurpose Cooperative embark on cashew growing too.

Having been involved in quite a number of businesses as a cooperative, they have decided to take up cashew growing which they believed may be a game changer as their sole objective is to improve their income generation at house hold level thus resulting in improved nutritional and food security.

The community of Siyongo is among the other communities that established a community cashew nursery of 8,215 seedlings for them to benefit from. And members of this cooperative society worked together with the community.

Some members of this Cooperative have decided to take up cashew growing both as a cooperative and at individual level. Mr Katuya, who is chairperson of the cooperative society, is one of the enthusiastic farmers, who has embarked on cashew production. He happens to be a nursery operator for the community cashew nursery.

Mr Katuya confirmed that as a cooperative they have accessed and cleared a three hectare piece of land for planting cashew seedlings.

Thus, the joining of the listed cashew community nursery beneficiaries will see Litulilo Multipurpose Cooperative be part of the cashew growing team. This is expected to facilitate cooperatives to closely work with government departments in order to acquire more knowledge and skills that will improve their lives.

Cooperatives such as this are equally encouraged to take up cashew growing as a business. For now the onus is on other cooperatives to emulate Litulilo cooperative in embracing government programmes for improved income and nutrition at household level.

Indeed the government has pledged to improve the lives of the people through the agricultural sector in western province by revamping the cashew sub sector. NAIS