ICCO Cooperation Central and Eastern Africa celebrated 50 years of existence on Thursday 19th November 2015 at Lemigo Hotel in Kigali, Rwanda. This celebration was part of the global festivities going on around the world in all the regions where ICCO Cooperation works.
ICCO was established in December 1964 by protestant churches and associations in the Netherlands. It started with a small subsidy and became an independent foundation in 1970. 10 years later ICCO became a co-financing organization with the Dutch government. The organization grew rapidly and support to civil society organizations increased. From 1990 the Cooperation formed partnerships with private companies, that would contribute to the realization of ICCO’s objectives.
The Fair and sustainable holding was set up in 2008 which is a private sector entity and a 100% subsidiary of ICCO. Fair and Sustainable Advisory Services became part of the holding and was later followed by the Fair Climate Fund and the ICCO Investment Fund.
In the period from 2007 to 2010, ICCO decentralized its operations to the regions, and regional offices were opened in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The ICCO Cooperative was founded in 2012 with 3 members EDUKANS (basic education and skills development), co Prisma (membership organisation of Dutch Christian organisations) and KerkinActie( the development wing of the Dutch protestant church).
The organization now has a vast international network of public and private partners in 44 countries, many of these are long term partners.
The oldest partners in the Central and Eastern Africa region have worked with the organization since the nineties though funds were granted in Rwanda since 1965. In the Central and Eastern Africa Region ICCO works in 8 countries , Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and South Sudan and is present in 7 at the exception of Sudan.
Froukje Zwaga, Regional Manager of ICCO’s Central and Eastern Africa office stated that, “ICCO works through partnerships and connecting different stakeholders, strengthening civil society organizations and working on empowering marginalized and enterprising people. We intervene at the policy, the institutional and the community level.”
She continues, “In the past 3 years, as a result of ICCO’s programmes globally, 520,000 small producers have improved their income. 262,000 households improved their food security and 69 partners demanded corporations and governments to comply with international standards on land and natural resources.”
Throughout its 50 years of existence, ICCO has come to believe that real change requires joint effort involving governments, civil society and the private sector.
Rwanda is one of the fastest growing economies in East and Central Africa and has achieved impressive development progress since the year 2000
Rwanda was the first country that ICCO started working with in the East and Central Africa region in 1965. It started with a request for a Domestic Science Teachers College in Remera, Rwanda and the construction of two secondary schools in Rwanda (resp. Runyombi and Kigali) in 1969 and a nursery school in Kirinda followed in the early 1970s. The Organization expanded its work in Rwanda to include health projects, rural development, poverty eradication through strengthening cooperatives and more recently value addition and agri-business development.
To empower smallholder farmers and communities of Rwanda, ICCO cooperation runs two programs: Fair Economic Development (FED) and Conflict Transformation and Democratization (CTD) program. The FED program focuses on three complementary sub-objectives: Rural entrepreneurship and producer organizations; Inclusive value chain development and Access to financial services. The Access to Finance is provided through ICCO-Terrafina Microfinance.
ICCO also coordinates the Agri-hub in Rwanda, a network set up by Dutch Agri-Profocus members with the aim of rallying together professionals, expertise and resources around a joint interest in farmer entrepreneurship.
ICCO/Terrafina runs a special capacity building program with financial cooperatives, working with 4 unions (Wizigara, Ejoheza, Umurimo, and Umutangua) and with 5 stand-alone cooperatives. All organizations have been supported with seed capital grants and technical assistance with a focus on product development for the rural and agricultural population.
To strengthen synergies and complementarities between development partners, ICCO Cooperation has also built up tailor-made partnerships with international organizations and funding facilities like the Agricultural Sector Development Facility (ASDF). This is a flexible funding mechanism to boost innovation in the agricultural sector of Rwanda.
The event was graced by foreign dignitaries such as the Dutch Ambassador in Rwanda and the European Union Representative, representatives of donor agencies, national and international NGO’s, representatives of the private sector, partners, members of the ICCO regional council and colleagues.
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