An assessment that was carried out on 1,505 cooperatives from 2018 until March 2020 revealed that 283 of them were non-operational, the Minister of Trade and Industry has said.
Minister Soraya Hakuziyaremye made the disclosure on Thursday, July 30, 2020, as she appeared before the plenary session of the Senate to give explanations for irregularities in the management of cooperatives in the country.
The Senate expressed concern that though the number of cooperatives increased from 919 in 2005 to 10,925 in 2019, there is a mismatch between the growing number and the impact they have on the welfare of their members.
Hakuziyaremye said that the cooperatives assessment was made by local government authorities, security organs, and the Rwanda Cooperative Agency (RCA) in order to know those that are operational, those which are not, and underlying reasons.
The exercise, she indicated, was done in 12 districts of the country for cooperatives of farmers growing potatoes, coffee, fruit and vegetables, those rearing silkworm, dairy farmers, as well as bicycle and motorcycle taxi riders.
The minister said that the activity will continue to other parts of the country, estimating that there might be more inactive cooperatives.
She said that the RCA faces challenges including inadequate budget and staff to expedite the assessment of all cooperatives.
However, she told senators that the count and evaluation of the cooperatives continues in partnership with the in-charge of cooperatives in districts and sectors, and that is expected to be complete in March next year (2021).
“That will give us the picture of the cooperatives that we have in the country, their performance, as well as the type of support that they need,” she said.
“By doing so, the non-operational cooperatives will be identified, and removed from the registry or have accreditation withdrawn from them. Some might be advised and get needed support so that they revive operations if need be,” she said.
Talking about potato farmers, Minister Hakuziyaremye said that there were about 260 potato farmers’ cooperatives in Rwanda, but, after ascertaining the issues they were facing, and restructuring, they are now only 111.
Senator Zephilin Kalimba expressed concern over the reduction of potato growers’ cooperatives as well as their management deficiencies, saying that these have the potential to threaten food security in the country.
“I worred that if more farmers’ cooperatives lack management capacity and cease to work, it may have adverse effect on food accessibility and the economy,” he said.
Responding to the concern, Hakuziyaremye said that some cooperatives were not working to benefit their members, and that the move will not affect potato production.
“The assessment that was carried out in the potato value chain showed that there were some cooperatives formed but they were not benefiting all members rather the few who were exploiting them,” she said, underscoring the need to consolidate cooperatives if necessary in order to maximise gains.
Senators also exposed an issue of lack of workers in charge of cooperative management at sector level, which they said was partly to blame for poor performance.
Minister Hakuziyaremye said that only 56 percent of all the 30 districts of the country have workers in charge of cooperative management in sectors.
Senator Marie-Rose Mureshyankwano said that this concern should be addressed.
“We need to know what is going to be done to address this problem because it has been realised that cooperatives perform well in sectors where there are employees responsible for cooperatives,” Mureshyankwano said.Follow https://twitter.com/EmNtirenganya