Currently approximately 80% transition to high school, and only 40% transition to universities. Last year, approximately 800,000 did KCPE, and those that sat for KCSE were approximately 500,000. This leaves about 150,000 primary graduates and about 300,000 secondary school graduates without a way of progressing their learning. This is the gap TVET must fill.
TVET training has not be correctly placed both in the minds of learners, tutors, parents, and even the public. Often, my teacher would tell us that if you fail the final exams, you will only be able to earn a place in the village polytechnic school - where tailoring, masonry, carpentry, welding and other skill-based courses were taught – solidifying the perception that artisans are a ‘last resort’ occupation. We must seriously and urgently counter these perceptions for the artisans and graduates of TVET to be able to earn a decent pay, and enhance policies that protect the remuneration of their craft.
Unlike other trades such as law, teaching, engineering, accounting, and medicine amongst others which are well organised into associations to foster the welfare of the members, artisans operate with no organized representation, a poor public image and little to no enforced national legislation for minimum labour standards or occupational safety regulations, the artisan and construction workers are vulnerable to exploitation. This has further been complicated by the fact there are many people who practice in this same space without any certificate. A way must be found to weed out the quacks from the industry. The genuine practitioners should be availed opportunity to get certification while on the job, and slowly progress to a situation where in order to practice, you must show certification. Furthermore, organized foreign artisans have been able to take advantage of this situation, win contracts and displace Kenyan workers. This is a losing situation for Kenya. Our artisans could literally be building our country and contributing to the Kenyan economy, but instead those jobs are going to foreign nationals who spend a small percentage of their wages inside the Kenyan economy. Knowing the numbers we are talking about, it should concern all policy makers to think of innovative ways to keep these TVET graduates in employment. This will significantly lower the unemployment pressure exerted by un-employed youths.
Some efforts to mobilize the artisans to achieve the above goals have been made, and we know there are many such efforts out there that could be consolidated to address this problem. Global Communities, an International Non-Governmental Organization, operating in over 20 countries in the world, is pioneering the concept of worker-owned cooperatives as one of the means to unite the artisans, and create a pool of talent which the public could run to for guaranteed quality service.
FundiTech, a pre-cooperative of artisans and craftsmen in Nairobi County, supported by the USAID/EMIRGE program, is endeavouring to change this status quo narrative. As an association of skilled artisans or “Fundis” they are coming together using the worker-owner cooperative business model, to build their own business of professionals that they know can change the face of fundis (artisans) in the country. FundiTech wants to become a “one stop shop” where clients can get any quality service in the building and construction industry, from project design to interior finishing.
As worker-owners, FundiTech members can set the terms of their own employment, ensure members know their rights and remove avenues for exploitation, while ensuring wages earned are commensurate to the skill provided. As a social enterprise the cooperative is envisioned to improve the standards of living of artisans and also providing soft skills on professionalism, customer service, workforce standards, and others that will improve the client interactions and the perception of the Kenyan Fundi. By providing ownership in the form of shares to the members (artisans) the worker-owner element incentivizes them to work to the best of their ability in order to enhance the reputation and profitability of FundiTech.
We hope the many efforts out there to this end could be shared and that a more robust TVET promotion and investment would be made to give the millions of our young people a chance in life, now and in the years to come.
Written by: Gandulam Chuluu, MEL Specialist, EMIRGE Mongolia
I became a member of EMIRGE Mongolia team quite recently, in March 2017. Straight away, I got immersed into the activities, which our team conducts for the program-supported co-operatives as well as dairy and vegetable sector stakeholders. My role in the project is as a Monitoring, Evaluation & Learning Specialist. In this role, I would like to share my knowledge of an activity that is facilitating how different co-operatives are learning and collaborating with each other. This activity is playing an important role not only within the EMIRGE co-operatives in Mongolia, but also in global co-operative development.
The activity is the “Co-operators’ World Club,” initiated by the EMIRGE Mongolia team in August 2016. At the time, there were no any other similar set-ups in Mongolia, and there was a need for such a club in order to provide continuous flow of information and knowledge, and thus, to support the smooth development of the EMIRGE-supported co-operatives. The Club provides a lasting opportunity for the co-operatives to share their experiences, exchange ideas and best practices. On the other hand, through the Club, the EMIRGE team is organizing discussions on the co-operatives’ challenges, on improving the governance and leadership, increasing the efficiency of cooperative businesses, and other capacity building activities.
The Club members meet on the monthly basis in Ulaanbaatar in a venue provided by EMIRGE. Any member of the EMIRGE co-operatives can attend it, but from the experience so far, mostly the co-operative leaders or the most active co-operative members regularly join the Club meetings. Sometimes, members of a certain co-operative takes turns, so that the coverage is even and they can substitute the members busy at the co-operative’s site.
Each monthly meeting is being held under a specific agenda related to the co-operative development, which is covered by using interactive facilitation tools, such as active knowledge exchange, case presentations and group discussions. Many crucial co-operative development subjects, such as expanding membership, motivating existing members, conducting efficient all members’ and Board of Directors’ meetings, financial regulations and reporting, creating transparency and resolving internal disputes have been discussed at the Club. In addition, each Club meeting has a sub-topic discussed, which is not necessarily directly linked to the cooperative development, but, nevertheless, the Club members are interested in. As an example, as a person with the public health background, I had an opportunity to present about the nutrition basics and organize a small interactive trivia game on it, which the Club members clearly enjoyed.
I believe that the Club is a valuable platform that is presented as an informal and friendly environment where the members can freely exchange not only their knowledge and experience, but also are giving each other much needed advice. In many occasions, the Club members discussed together the challenges faced by a certain co-operative and would come jointly to a good solution. I observed that the Club members also are attracted by the welcoming atmosphere. What is more, the Club helps to create a really effective network among all the program co-operatives, and they continue to interact outside the meeting room to visit each others’ sites to exchange and sell products.
The Club is a successful activity and the members have further plans to develop the Club. For example, they created their own logo and EMIRGE is supporting the Club in its branding and promotion among local communities and outside co-operatives. Also, Club members are considering establishing the Co-op World Club’s branches at local sites.
Written by: Mark Matabi, Co-operatives Specialist / Country Lead, EMIRGE Kenya
The 2017 general elections have had twists. After the nullification of the August 8th 2017 presidential elections, repeat presidential elections will be held on 17th October 2017. The Supreme Court annulled the presidential poll results on the basis of ‘illegalities’ and ‘irregularities’. Before, during, and after the elections, Kenya is characterized by cases of political tensions and chaos in parts of the country. A key lesson from these occurrences, is the unpassed test of the spirit of democracy, social justice and peace building. The immensity of ‘steam’ thereof, seriously threatens to ‘choke’ the nationhood and socio-economic activities. This connotes a citizenry whose aspirations are dampened by the current nation’s value systems.
One thing that seriously needs redress in Kenya, to end periodic electoral malpractices and political tensions and violence, are community structures to nurture democratic and societal values that re-define citizens’ principles. Just as the ‘Nyumba Kumi’ initiative has helped to curb community-level insecurity, co-operative societies are such community structures – to promote authentic democracy, social justice and peace.
How? It is in the annals of Kenya’s history how the co-operative and labor movements played a critical role in the country’s independence. The independence brought tears of joy and not anguish. Peace, Love, Unity and ‘Harambee’ (self-help) became the country’s slogan. Subsequently, the country’s history has shown that the slightest interference with co-operative and labor movements deteriorates the slogan and the spirit thereof. The results have been growing tribalism (and even nepotism and clannism), corruption, intolerance, tension, violence, and many more social ills; not only at the national, but also at the regional and community levels.
Co-operative structures, principles, and values can remedy these ills. How?
Firstly, co-operatives are democratic business organizations equally owned and controlled by a group of community members by common-bond admission – all are co-operators, period. Membership is none discriminatory – no tribe or region is greater than the other. One member one vote – and no dead voter or voting by proxy during the election of leaders or policy. Because co-operatives are democratically owned by community members, co-operatives keep much of their money and jobs in their communities. Much of co-operative’s money is not stuffed in foreign banks; jobs are created for people living in the co-operative community – youth, women and people living with disability.
Secondly, co-operatives offer achievable and practical solutions, to many economic, environmental and social problems that can be implemented right now. ‘Manifestos’ shouldn’t just impress the electorates, but should also be achievable and practical, based on the strategic plan or vision of the co-operative, and economic factors.
Thirdly, co-operatives are an empowerment means for self-help and solidarity of members. Co-operative leadership builds infrastructure, such as the industrial parks. They promote community empowerment rather than giving hand-outs among its populace, to attract votes. Everyone has a gift and should therefore engage in co-operative community and business building. This should be the path of Kenya’s politics.
Fourth, co-operative members equally share the burden in hard times and equally share benefits in good times. The co-operative’s populace is not ‘forced’ to share grief in hard times – to pray or even sympathize with ‘our leader’. Co-operatives emphasizes the need to genuinely embrace the shared leadership and ‘citizenry’.
Fifth, co-operatives strive to make members’ lives, communities and economies more just, equitable and democratic. The leaders are transparent about what they borrowed or generated and how they used it for the co-operative’s sake, they do not lie or engage in cheap public relations, and they do not disfranchise members nor offer skewed development on perceived voting patterns. It cannot happen, because members are well educated and informed on their rights and responsibilities as shareholders.
Sixth, co-operatives are more resilient in economic downturns and in impoverished communities. Being viable and just alternatives for meeting social and economic needs, co-operatives do not shut down, or lay off, or fail to pay workers. Instead co-operative members pull together to work out solutions – without castigating fears or intimidating others. Furthermore, leaders do not ‘loot’ the co-operative through shady ‘solution’ deals such as importation of raw materials, and privatization of co-operative businesses, without following the by-laws.
Finally, co-operatives are an international movement. There are thousands of co-operatives around the world making significant impact locally and globally. Co-operatives are implementing sustainable development goals, and undertaking actions that positively impact neighbors, and the whole globe.
A true co-operator is made to use the ‘head’ and not the ‘belly’ to think, talk and act. Social and political injustices and tensions thereof are fueled by the ‘belly’ values. Community structures like co-operatives instills ‘head’ values of, ‘I am because WE are, and since WE are, therefore I am’, as postulated by Kenya’s own Theologian, John Mbiti.
If this rings a bell on ways and means of promoting democracy and/or ending tribalism, corruption, tensions and violence in Kenya, then the roots of co-operatives in the country must be retraced and embraced. Promotion and strengthening of the co-operative societies in the country need serious re-examination and consideration under the new government(s). The USAID/EMIRGE program in Kenya is such a co-operative development initiative, empowering youth, women and people living with disabilities in Kenya’s rural and informal settlements, to address community love, peace, unity and prosperity. Let us create an environment for co-operative development and promote co-operatives for nurturing democracy, social justice and peace building in the countries and communities!
Written by: Mark Matabi, Co-operatives Specialist / Country Lead, EMIRGE Kenya
The Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, in wisdom is remembered by his startling quotes about change – ‘change is the only constant thing in life’; and “no man ever steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man”, because be it the man or the river, they are constantly changing.
In the today’s rapidly changing world, exhibited by emerging socio-economic challenges, the role of a development change agent cannot be underestimated. Global Communities, through the USAID funded Enabling Market Integration through Rural Group Empowerment (EMIRGE) Program in Kenya, is playing the role of a change agent in the co-operative movement. It is on the verge of re-writing the history of co-operative movement in the country.
The co-operative movement in Kenya has a long history from the colonial to post-colonial to post multi-party democracy era, to today’s new constitutional dispensation. From the production to housing and financial focus, these activity sectors have, doubtlessly, over the years put the country on the global co-operatives map – being number one in Africa and number seven in the world. But today, the emerging youth and employment trend challenges, are definitely about to define the status of the country’s co-operative movement. This is because, the previous sectors of focus in Kenya, are either stagnating or slowly collapsing or metamorphosing to other business models. Such cases include, the delay in return on investment for housing co-operatives, increasing loan defaults in savings and credit co-operatives or transformation to microfinance institutions, and lowly performing agricultural sector for agricultural producer co-operatives.
What next? It is being appreciated that as Kenya moves to the league of ‘middle income’ countries, based on Country’s Vision 2030 blueprint, the economic sector is slowly and firmly settling on the bedrock of growing service industries – for employment creation and income generation. But such service industries, with greater composition of workers, are still characterized by the concentration of wealth in hands of few (who are not accountable to the communities), low job qualities, and wide wage disparities.
By their nature, principles and values, the co-operatives can address these gaps in service industries. How? In a Kenya under new constitutional dispensation, the co-operative movement is now a devolved function of the county level of government. This is the gap that Global Communities’ EMIRGE Program is filling. First, by spearheading the development of County Model Legal, Regulatory and Policy Framework; and lobbying for the adoption of the same by the respective County Governments. Secondly, by conducting research on the structural, relational and cognitive dimensions of co-operatives as significant social capital organizations in the country. Thirdly, by piloting workers co-operatives in building and construction, beauty and wellness, and corporate branding and marketing service industries. To greater extend, these industries are dominated by women and youth, from the informal settlements of urban areas, starting with Nairobi, the Capital City.
The worker co-operatives’ momentum is on, in Kenya. The push by Global Communities’ EMIRGE Program is in the right direction, to make the greatest difference, to bring about the inevitable co-operatives change, and to re-write the history of co-operatives movement in the country.
Global Communities Country Director, Kimberly Tilock, presenting draft Model County Co-operative Law to Chair Council of Governors, Hon. Peter Munya, September 5,2016
Written by: Mark Matabi, Co-operatives Specialist / Country Lead, EMIRGE Kenya
USAID funded Enabling Market Integration through Rural Groups Empowerment (EMIRGE) program in Kenya, has highlighted key lessons on co-operatives development. With the objective of market linkages to ensure co-operatives’ engagements, capitalization, and sustainability; the facilitation of the horizontal or vertical linkages is stifled by co-operatives management practices. This is a clear indication that Kenya’s co-operatives movement is in crisis of co-operative management due to inadequate knowledge sharing and weak regulatory framework.
The democratic participation and engagement of the respective members in their co-operative economic activities is still minimal, besides the nominal share contributions. Co-operative members have limited knowledge of their rights, roles and responsibilities. This leaves the management leaders to make unchecked decisions, and undertake only self-aggrandizement activities. With Kenya’s corruption index surging high, at 154 out of 178 globally, co-operatives are not an exception to the expression of this menace that is eroding the co-operative principles and value. If you check the co-operatives’ financial statuses, the book values are not the real values. Additionally, the issues of unprogressive founder syndrome and negative tribalism, clannism and nepotism compromises co-operatives’ management. Some leaders ‘turning’ co-operatives into private or family businesses. This has been exhibited by chaos during some co-operatives’ annual general meetings.
Furthermore, co-operative leaders have inadequate life skills, hence stifling the member engagements in co-operative activities. The results are mistrust among (old and new) co-operative members and leaders; and the negative perception of co-operative business models among potential members. In such case, youth and women still shy away from embracing the co-operative business model. Eventually, co-operatives seem to be facing capitalization challenges for meaningful and sustainable co-operative businesses. This in turn makes the co-operatives unable to have a competitive edge or comparative advantage over other forms of businesses among the smallholder, informal producers, and service providers in the current competitive and capitalistic environment. To survive, Kenya’s co-operatives are quickly becoming ‘company’ and ‘partnership’ model businesses, faster than anyone could imagine.
Exacerbating this crisis further, are the co-operative officers’ structure and inadequacies. The co-operative staff turnover is increasing, as many officers retire. At a point, the growth of the movement was not commensurate with government co-operative staffing. Today, the county governments are to manage county co-operative officers, who are now being appointed from respective counties and sub-counties, many of whom are inexperienced. In promotion of the co-operatives this could be good. However, in the regulation of co-operatives there are likely to be cases compromise, partialities and indecisiveness among the officers in handling co-operative leadership and management issues. Hence, compromising the internal co-operative leadership and management. In short, the co-operators, promoters and regulators have been unable to manage the exponential growth of the Kenya’s co-operative movement.
Therefore, there is need for a concerted effort to build the capacity of co-operative members and leaders on good management practices and corporate governance. This will position co-operatives as a critical business model for a collaborative economy. Models of internal co-operative by-laws, service charters and operational policies for human resource and financial management should be developed and reviewed on a regular basis by co-operative movement stakeholders. Every co-operative should be supported in developing, reviewing and operationalizing periodic strategic business plans. Additionally, in the wake of the technological advancement era, co-operatives should be supported in developing and operationalizing secured technology for enhanced integrated management and financial systems. Just as we need the law for co-operatives development, we need technology for active member participation. Integrated online operations by co-operatives will not only improve trust between members and their leaders, it will also encourage economic participation.
In relation to co-operative officers, there should be a rotating inter-county governments’ co-operative staffing system, to regularly rotate the officers with supervisory mandate of co-operatives. Furthermore, the co-operative should enlist credible co-operative private consultants and auditors to work with co-operatives in the respective counties, as service providers. Such service providers should work closely with development organizations that promote the co-operative business model in target communities.
The co-operative principles and values should be intensely re-inculcated into Kenya’s co-operative movement, to abate the co-operative mismanagement.
Written by: Mark Matabi, Co-operatives Specialist / Country Lead, EMIRGE Kenya
A product and its’ features reflect the maker’s spirit, to make it function in different locations. Japanese cars manufactured for Europe may not have the exact features as those made for the African market, even with the same intent of functionality. This is the same with co-operatives.
My journey into the co-operative movement, as a promoter and advocate, has been characterised by the passion and purpose of learning and information sharing. While growing in the co-operative profession, one of the issues I have been consistently fascinated by, is what really forms a co-operative business model, and how various types of co-operatives form in different societies. The question I always endeavour to answer is, “What is the co-operative image and identity in different geographical areas?” Initially, my thinking was like those of medieval cosmologists who held that the earth was flat. I remember some years back, on my very first international assignment as a co-operatives development advisor to one of the Southern Africa countries, I carried a box full of co-operative materials from Kenya, ‘as reference to teach them about real co-operatives’. Surprisingly, I never used it, but was able to support the development and strengthening of organisational and business structures and systems for 187 agriculture and marketing co-operatives in less than three years. I later learned what my unconscious secret was, effectively outlined in Ernesto Sirolli's TED talk, “Want to help someone? Shut up and listen!” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chXsLtHqfdM)
This is key to being a co-operative specialist! Simply put, promoters of co-operatives should endeavour to internalise the environment in which they are promoting the co-operative business model, for rural socio-economic empowerment and development.
Written by: Mark Matabi, Co-operatives Specialist / Country Lead, EMIRGE Kenya
The international image of the Kenya’s co-operative is glorious. The co-operative movement in Kenya is ranked first in the continent and seventh globally. The Internal Co-operative Alliance indicate that the movement contributes to about 45% of the national GDP. However, if the recent local media reports of dismal performances and leadership dishonesty cases in agricultural, housing and financial co-operatives; are anything to go by, then the movement may be gloomier, eroding the very socio-economic brightness that was celebrated before. The ‘co-operators’ being swindled for their hard earned monies with air-filled promises by ‘co-operatives’, are now becoming the order of the day. Issues of member equity, trust, satisfaction and co-operative performance should be under the stakeholders’ radar, more now than ever before. What is more, the devolution of the co-operative function to the county government, should correct the ‘deformities’. In short, Kenya’s co-operative movement needs ‘structural surgery’ – a paradigm shift in focus.
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) including Global Communities, cannot be left behind in the ‘theatre room’ as the key co-operatives’ promoter since economic liberalization in early 1990s. USAID is one of the key donor agencies funding co-operative strategy for rural economic development, and their tenets of development resonate well with the co-operatives principles. USAID implementation of such donor funded programs, needs to be innovative in developing strong and sustainable co-operative structures as vehicle for development. Global Communities is implementing one of the USAID funded programs dubbed ‘Enabling Marketing Integration through Rural Groups Empowerment’ (EMIRGE) since 2016. The principle of this program in Kenya is that, no one should be doing the same thing all the time and expect different results.
The recent concerns of some of the co-operatives’ underperformance, dormancy, and scandals in Kenya are attributed to leadership. But is leadership the main essence of the development of co-operatives? Not burying our heads in the sand as co-operative promoters, the emerging question is the whereabouts of followership – the capacity and willingness of members to follow leaders in current co-operatives’ stressed situations. Followership is becoming a greater missing link in the co-operatives development than leadership. The shift of focus from co-operative leadership to followership is therefore critical. This is because co-operative success cannot be solely dependent on dynamic leaders, it also needs followers who are actively contributing to the betterment of the co-operative. The consideration of an effective followership should be the emphasis for partner NGOs, and indeed Global Communities’ emphasis, to create an everlasting impact in co-operative movement.
The followership concept was advanced by Robert Kelley, featured in his writings, ‘In praise of followers’, ‘the power of followership’, and ‘rethinking followership’. It is an interactive role that individual members play to complement the leadership in achieving co-operative performance. Key dimensions of followers are active or passive engagement, and/or critical or dependent thinking. The followership dimensions are rooted in self-determination theory, and are in tandem with the first three co-operative principles of open and voluntary membership, autonomy and independency, and member economic participation. When practiced, individuals have inherent growth tendencies and are motivated behind the choices that they make without any external influence and interference.
In strengthening co-operatives in Kenya, USAID/EMIRGE program is building the capacities of co-operative members, for effective followership. The co-operatives are now boasting member-followers who are able to engage in independent critical thinking, analyzing the information given to them, meticulously evaluating situations and actions, and making judgements independent of the consequences of their decisions. Furthermore, the co-operative members are being educated to be actively engaged in taking initiative, assume ownership, and actively assume and participate in performing their co-operative roles. They are doing so even beyond their minimum role requirements and exert considerable effort to accomplish high-quality goals. This is increasing satisfaction through regular attendance of meetings, organizational commitment through share contribution, and fewer membership withdrawals. There is increased self-esteem among the co-operators, and personal growth into mature and effective performers. The co-operatives member-followers have found a reason and strength to complete given tasks, working effectively with others, seeing themselves as important resources, and embracing change, without influence from other people or situations. They are building trust on core values, with their word as their bond. They are able to communicate courageously, with honesty and timely feedback. They are able to identify with their leaders as their ‘partner in success’, and even adopting the leader’s vision (seeing the big picture from the boss’s perspective). This has enhanced the co-operatives’ structural, relational and cognitive social capital dimensions.
Written by: Ms. Tuul Tuvshinbayar, Program Manager, EMIRGE Mongolia
Since leading the implementation of Global Communities’ EMIRGE Mongolia program, I have constantly grappled with the following questions: Who can be considered a leader? What effects can leaders have on the local community? How do we identify leaders? How do we build more leaders within cooperatives?
On one hand it seems impossible to create leaders. However, I believe we can help people to acquire certain leadership skills. I believe a leader is a torchbearer who shares and spreads his or her good practices to others, and also supports, influences and encourages them.
Since the start of the program in 2010, we have repeatedly provided trainings and advisory services to cooperative and group members, covering effective self articulation, presentation, identification of problems and solutions, listening to others, team discussion and decision making skills. I can see that our program cooperative and group members have already become leaders in their local communities. Although they do not self-identify as leaders, I have witnessed their growth in leadership abilities during recent site visits.
Many of the program cooperative/group members have developed skills to make good presentations, facilitate discussions, listen to others, share experiences with others, develop themselves, as well as skills to encourage and influence others. Many of the program cooperative members have become mentors, teaching and helping others within the community. They educate others about technology, governance and savings. For example,. Mrs. Uranchimeg B from Burhantin Buteelch Busguichuud cooperative, had struggled with obtaining large orders from buyers. She learned from others how to develop a clear product catalog to share with potential buyers, which the cooperative now distributes.
Even others have noticed the positive change. For example, Ms. Bolormaa, Agriculture Officer within the local Governor’s office has noticed the following: Increased willingness from other businesses to listen to members, better information sharing and distribution, tendency to be proactive; thus underlining the fact that our cooperative members have become leaders in their local communities.
As more leaders emerge it helps the entire local community. Our cooperative members are even carrying over their new skills into governance. Some of our cooperative members have run in local elections this year, including 4 members from cooperatives/groups in Mandal soum, Selenge province, 1 member from Darkha-Uul province and 1 member from Shaamar soum, Selenge province. These cooperative/group members competed in the local election upon the request and encouragement of other fellow cooperative/group members as well as wider community members. Many local businesses and cooperative members have supported them in the elections. They said they will run in the next elections with even more enthusiasm and confidence.
Our cooperative leaders are becoming the face of their local communities, and also initiative takers in their communities. They come up with new ideas and initiatives to develop youth in their communities and improve their knowledge.
I believe few people are born to be leaders but many people can develop into leaders. I believe a person’s leadership skills can be seen from how effective that person utilizes his innate as well as acquired skills in given circumstances. In other words, some people discreetly apply their skills and knowledge only for personal or his/her family benefits and business whereas others share and spread their skills to others. These are the good leaders and identifying, encouraging and showing appreciation to them can help them become even better leaders.
I believe other programs as well as local governments have an important role to play when it comes to showing appreciation, support and encouragement to these good leaders. I think as development programs and projects build more leaders in local communities it will strengthen the basis for sustainable development. I’m proud that our cooperative members are becoming local leaders.
Written by: Mark Matabi, Co-operatives Specialist / Country Lead, EMIRGE Kenya
Youth unemployment stands at 13% globally. Kenya’s youth unemployment is at 40%. Globally, the country is eleventh according to the recent CIA World Factbook, International Labour Organization and UN World Youth reports. These reports further indicate that there are disturbingly high numbers of employed youth who are still living in extreme or moderate poverty despite having a job.
In the recent 2017 Global Youth Survey by Citi Foundation, 70% of the youth are extremely optimistic about their future despite uncertainty and change across the globe. In developing nations including Kenya, this cannot be far from the truth with 79% of the youth being optimistic. An overarching question is how do we capitalize on this optimism and best prepare young people to take advantage of future opportunities that will lead them towards economic success?
The Government has endeavored to develop policies and initiatives for youth development. However, things seem not to add up. There are notable failures in and unsustainability of the related Government development funds and employment programs such as Youth Enterprise and Uwezo Funds and National Youth Service. Many individual youth enterprises die at conception. This shifts the youth’s perceived optimism to economic frustration. The result is ‘get-rich-quick’ schemes and engagements. Gambling is becoming such an engagement among the youth.
The gambling craze as reported by various media outlets including BBC, is spreading like bushfire among the young people in Kenya. In 2017/2018 budget, the Government announced 50% tax on gambling firms. But this may remain an elusive effort in addressing the youth unemployment and economic frustration. Essentially, this is another exposé of the government’s inability to enforce policies that can address youth unemployment. The promotion of workers and service co-operatives in Kenya, should be the deliberate and immediate next frontier initiative for youth development.
We have dared before, we need to dare once more as a country! We need a radical paradigm shift. We dared to promote and develop agricultural and marketing, savings and credit, and housing co-operatives. Let us dare to invest in the new generation co-operatives to address youth unemployment and economic frustration.
In Kenya, the co-operatives are lifting the lives of many especially farmers and employees, contributed highly to the country’s gross domestic product, and put the country on global map of co-operative movement. Co-operatives are intrinsically inclined to prioritize and emphasize job security, dividend‐sharing, membership development and community support through communal facilities and the provision of reliable and affordable products and services. However, the co-operatives in Kenya seem not to be effectively harnessed as a vehicle that empower young people to promote social integration and cohesion in a way that may address joblessness.
We need workers and service oriented co-operatives, which have a more comparative job creation advantage over other types of enterprises, for the youth populace in this country. These type of co-operatives will instill a working spirit among the youth while generating economies of scale and scope through horizontal and vertical integration, establishing links between the informal and formal sectors. Why? It is doubtless that most of young people are in the informal economy as freelancing marketers, masons, beauticians, mechanics, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, house helps, cat-pushers, boda-bodas and gardeners.
The youth workers and service co-operatives, will offer young workers the opportunity to be incorporated intensively and extensively into the formal sector. Doing so will enable them to gain the security of decent employment and social safety networks. Moreover, as co-operative workers and service providers in the formal market, they gain access to formal social security, banking and insurance that will not only protect, but will also enhance their livelihoods. There should be a concerted efforts for such co-operatives to be initiated from schools, colleges and universities.
Brand Ambassadors Youth Co-operative is such a workers’ and service co-operative society operating in Nairobi City County. With offices along Mfangano Street in Nairobi’s CBD, the co-operative is composed of young men and women, in and out of college. The co-operative offers branding and marketing services to corporate organizations. This attracted the support of a development organization – Global Communities - under USAID funded program "Enabling Market Integration through Rural Group Empowerment". The organization has been able to build its members and leaders’ capacity. The individual members who used to be lone freelancing marketers are offering marketing services jointly. Here the members are assured of a consistency of jobs and salaries, and even short term financing. All they need now is to secure corporate opportunities.
The workers and service co-operates are able to directly transition young people to the world of business, where their employment worries will be a thing of the past. Moreover, the grounding of these co-operatives from schools, colleges and universities will offer resources, trainings, and opportunities for leadership and managerial roles that prepare them when they graduate. The young members originating from schools will experience early nurturing in a sense of ownership and belonging while instilling the values of hard-work, teamwork and comradeship.
Alternatively, the existing co-operatives should within their operations directly create workers and service wings to attract young people. For instance, housing co-operatives may create the construction service wing, with young people with artisan and technical skills as members. Seeking to recruit, train and supervise young members will be a means to rejuvenate the co-operative movement for future generations. Its role in youth employment will be inevitable.
As we celebrated this year’s international day of co-operatives, on 1st July, 2017 with the theme of Inclusivity - ‘Co-operatives ensure no one is left behind’; let the youth not be left behind. Workers and service co-operatives will include the Kenyan youth in the co-operative movement.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with EMIRGE Mongolia Program Manager, Ms. Tuul Tuvshinbayar. After spending some time in the field, in the more rural areas of Mongolia, Tuul was clearly distraught over what she and her team were witnessing.
Tuul, when you were last in the field, what were you seeing happening?
I have recently returned from what is normally the breadbasket of Mongolia, but what I actually saw was very worrying. When crops are usually 60-80 cm in height, this season they are only 10-40cm high.
Why are the crops underperforming this year?
Unfortunately, Mongolia is experiencing a severe drought. In Mongolia, we have a very short summer, and therefore, a very short growing season. However, during this season, it has only rained twice! Farmers are losing their harvests, and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture is already announcing a 40 % loss of crops across the country due to drought.
What other implications does the drought have?
Mongolians rely upon livestock, and it is one of the largest sectors in the country. The drought is difficult for the livestock, but it is particularly difficult because during the summer season, farmers often grow hay and feed to get the animals through the harsh Mongolian winters. I have spoken with many farmers that are saying that they will have to cull their animals this year because they will otherwise starve during the winter. It is a very difficult decision for a farmer to make—to slaughter his own animals—as it will take at least three years to recover from the slaughter.
Do you think there are any potential solutions or ways that the drought could have been handled differently?
To be honest, this is one of our biggest challenges. Farmers and herders could have made the decision to plant and grow green fodder. I understand that it has its own challenges, such as lack of irrigation and other animals can easily destroy the fodder if there are no fences, but in this situation, fodder could be the alternative to slaughter. EMIRGE has taught many farmers how to plant fodder, but not all of them have planted it. These fodder demonstrations were also attended by farmers other than EMIRGE farmers. We wanted to spread this knowledge as wide as possible, however because of many obstacles faced by farmers, they do not plant as much as we would hope they would. This is a challenging question for me that I cannot understand. Many farmers say that they will just purchase hay, but because of the drought, hay is going to be twice as expensive as before and there is a shortage in the country.
Is index-based weather or livestock insurance available for smallholder farmers in Mongolia? Although crop insurance is available, it is mostly purchased by larger scale farmers or herders. The World Bank first supported the Index-Based Livestock Insurance Program in the country in 2005, and it is slowly growing. It is still new for many smallholder farmers, and it is not well marketed to many smallholder farmers.
What are the most immediate next steps for EMIRGE?
The winter is rapidly approaching. Some of the rural areas expect snow in a couple of weeks. Our team is doing our best to support our cooperative members to make fodder for the winter time. For me, as a development practitioner, I am looking for any lessons learnt from others in similar situations. I keep asking myself how the farmers can overcome these obstacles and plant enough fodder so that they can feed their livestock. I think it is a question that will haunt me all winter long.