Cooperative Leadership Event in Malawi: a platform to bridge research, capacity-building and policy-making

Cooperative Leadership Event in Malawi: a platform to bridge research, capacity-building and policy-making

A recent five-day event in Uganda, aimed at strengthening agricultural cooperatives, closed with a resolution to establish a new cooperative bank to support farmers in Malawi among other achievements.

The Cooperative Leadership Event (CLE), which took place from 26 to 30 September in Lilongwe, was the second in a series of three throughout the year. The “CLEs” are implemented across Africa, under the Enhancing Development through Cooperatives initiative.

“Key outcomes of the meeting included strengthening the leadership and management capacity of 120 representatives from 120 agricultural coops and farmer organizations, generating a brand new and very detailed dataset of this representative sample,” said CIAT and CTA representative Nicola Francesconi.

“We also facilitated a three-hour debate between farmers’ representatives – the leaders and managers of agri-coops and farmer organizations – and the Minister of Industry and Trade of Malawi, who committed to involving them and the various experts and stakeholders participating in the event, to building a centre for cooperative business education, and designing a new policy for cooperative enterprises and new cooperative bank.”

Another important outcome was that CIAT, CTA, FAO, GIZ, USADF, and the Malawian Agricultural Commodity Exchange (ACE) have committed to developing public-private partnerships to make strategic investments for cooperative agribusiness development.

Resolutions from the Cooperative Leadership Event

His Excellency the Minister of Industry and Trade of Malawi, Honorable Joseph Mwanamveka MP, officially closed the CLE, held at the Malawi Institute of Management (MIM).

 He publicly committed to involving key representatives of the network brought together by this CLE, and to designing the new cooperative legislation and policy, and a new cooperative bank for Malawi.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade of Malawi is in the process of revising the national cooperative legislation and policy to establish a cooperative bank, he said.

The Minister publicly endorsed the request of all the participants to work together and establish “Centers of Excellence” for cooperative education, and to continue organizing CLEs on a regular basis.

 CLE aims and activities

The CLE was organized by CIAT in partnership with fifteen institutions, including GIZ, FAO, NCBA-CLUSA, USADF, OXFAM, and OCDC.

One cooperative member attending the training said: “This training has been an advantage to us; we would also like to thank the Ministry for pledging to work hand in hand with us, and to work with our cooperative banks,” to help farmers get more affordable access to credit.

Like the previous event, which took place in May in Uganda, the CLE in Malawi was designed to:

  • Strengthen the leadership and management of national agricultural cooperatives (agri-coops) and farmer organizations (FOs), as well as the understanding of cooperative business models among the local staff of NGOs and private companies, and among students of local Universities.
  • Generate new, detailed, and rigorous data to feed research for guiding policy-making and capacity building efforts.
  • Facilitate group coaching, knowledge exchanges, mutual learning, peer pressure, professional networking, and collective advocacy.

The event registered 175 participants per day, on average, most of them leaders and managers of agri-coops and FOs (about 120 people), and the rest included representatives from NGOs, donor agencies, international organizations, national farmer unions, the private sector, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Industry and Trade, and students from local universities.

CLE’s main activities:

  • Collection of data about Malawian agri-coops and FOs and their leaders and managers.
  • Interactive training based on the “Cooperative Life Cycle Framework.”
  • Focus group discussions about the life cycles of participants’ agri-coops and FOs.
  • Panel discussions on public policy, public-private partnerships and private finance.
  • Outdoor fair to promote new business and development opportunities.
  • Debriefing session for participants to draw conclusions and recommendations.
  • Structured debate between participants’ representatives and the Minister of Industry and Trade.
  • Closing ceremony.

Read: CLE Malawi report