Second Regional Co-operative Value Chain Symposium

Theme - “Innovation – Bridging the Gap in Value Chains”
Value Chain Financing and Youth Involvement in Co-operatives
Dates: 29 and 30 September 2011 Nairobi, Kenya

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Agriculture continues to be the economic mainstay of most Eastern and Southern African nations. National economies remain highly dependent on agriculture as a source of employment and income. Co-operatives have emerged as the best tool to help rural small scale producers to overcome many of the challenges faced within the era of globalization.

Managed prudently, co-operatives can benefit from the many innovative products and services offered in the market. For example, microfinance institutions (MFIs) or community-based financial organizations can link up with producer organizations to provide small input loans to producers, while banks can provide investment loans to processing companies, including co-operatives and leverage the financial capacities of community organizations and MFIs. Moreover, a good number of co-operatives stand out as success cases having adopted innovative value chain upgrading strategies/interventions in their respective enterprises. However, agricultural productivity in Africa remains lower than in other continents, resulting in slow development of rural areas and low farmer incomes. The functioning of agricultural value chains in Africa is adversely affected by the fragmentation of agricultural sector players and a whole range of production, transport, storage and market issues.

There is widespread agreement that economic growth can be a major driver for reducing poverty. The concept of “value chain promotion” has emerged as an important tool for pro-poor economic development; the value chain approach helps to address issues of economic change that are critical to the poor. In the era of globalization, value chain promotion is mainly related to the competitiveness of food production, rural industries and light manufacturing that provide livelihoods for large numbers of people. In most weak economies, business communities need to get much better organized and become more market-oriented. The investment of government and private enterprises has to be coordinated. Isolated interventions cannot impact on the productivity of African agriculture in a meaningful way. What is needed is upscaling of successful cases and a range of highly flexible and innovative methodologies that can be adjusted to specific needs of different regional and product contexts.

The current global financial crisis should also be taken into account in such interventions. Although rural populations are not directly connected to the international financial system, their markets and their financial institutions are affected by it. Financial institutions relying on external funding definitely felt the crisis. The effects on local economies have been significant, starting with agricultural exports. As these effects trickle down they affect the development of rural areas in the region.

There is a clear need to identify best practices in value chain analysis and subsequent promotion interventions. Important questions remain if, when and where in the value chain to intervene; with what products; through which structures; how to ensure mutually beneficial relations between chain actors and service providers; how to upscale interventions; and how to build viable business cases for service providers to step in.

The first Regional Co-operative Value Chain Symposium in November 2010 brought together more than 200 stakeholders from the region. Best practice presentations from Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya inspired the participants to discuss how to improve the performance of other co-operatives. Many examples of tools and models to enable co-operatives to bridge the gaps in value chains created aha moments for the participants from the region. The market place provided for a lively exchange of actors in a semiformal way.

The Second Regional Co-operative Value Chain Symposium will again present best practice examples from all over Africa. We want to hear from your approaches, trials and errors, and what you achieved. How did you manage to involve the youth to ensure succession in an increasingly ageing agricultural population? What attempts have you made to involve the Youth to participate in co-operative business and play an increased role in value chain promotion? How did you find a way to ensure sufficient finance is available for your value chain upgrading? What have you documented and would like to spread? Which tools did you develop and how do they work? Your examples and contributions from our speakers will set the floor for participants’ discussions on the above issues. However, we do not wish to limit ourselves to best practices shown up to now. There is a clear need for innovation and creating platforms for learning. And, what better platform to discuss meaningful experiments and experiences, and think about innovative solutions, than with a group of experts and stakeholders from the Co-operative Movement that we aim to bring together for the second time in Nairobi?

Since 2007 ATC, the Agri and Co-operative Training and Consultancy Services Ltd, has been mandated by the Co-operative College of Kenya to contribute to the knowledge outreach of academic and practical knowledge to the Co-operative movement. More than 6000 small scale farmers and extension workers have been trained in Farming as a Business, Demand Driven Extension Services, Organizational Development and Value Chain Promotion among others. During the training we always experience an abundant pool of best practices and experiences.

Two issues are emerging in all discussions. How can we finance the necessary value chain investment needs? Who will step into the shoes of the aging population producing our agricultural products?

The 2011 Regional Co-operative Value Chain Symposium will dwell on the above issues, making them more concrete and applicable to Co-operatives, farmer groups, service providers and development partners. The Symposium will be open to all best practices available with special focus on the involvement of youth in value chains as well as grooming the youth for the next generation of co-operative leadership for the region. Additional emphasis will be given to innovative approaches to value chain finance. The most important learning point from earlier workshops is that no value chain is the same, and one-size-fits-all solutions are not available.

The symposium will give key presenters the opportunity to showcase best practice examples to the plenum. To address the specific issues different working groups will focus on special interests of participants and allow many presenters to highlight results, insights, novel and transformative tools in short lightning talks. A summary of the results of working groups will be presented to the plenum by the moderators and documented in the symposium report.

A market place will connect the symposium participants with the exhibition. Throughout the symposium stakeholders will exhibit in the compound of the Co-operative Bank Management Training Centre and market their products and services. During the market place participants will be given space within the exhibition area to present their projects, tools, models and approaches with posters, flipcharts and other informal presentations.

a) Realizing Economies of Scale through Collective Efforts
For many value chain actors, this is the biggest stumbling block to advancing performance of their respective value chain. This applies to small holder farmers, producing small quantities of crop, a processor with limited processing capacity or an individual trader trying to access the market. Forming groups, associations or co-operatives can help them to realize economies of scale. Leadership in Co-operatives can be a driving force for value chain promotion or the result of successful value chain promotion. In which way can we create an environment for leadership respecting the Co-operative values? Ethics, governance, social and ecological awareness, and leadership skills are essential to fully utilize the potential of Co-operatives in value chain promotion. Are we preparing the next generation of co-operative leaders? What can be done to involve the youth, learning institutions and parents so that future generations can live in economic and social freedom?

b) Reaching out
Many public and private institutions have identified value chain promotion as a main opportunity to tackle poverty, food insecurity and to address environmental and social issues. How can these institutions be supported to fully benefit from the opportunities of value chain promotion? What are the experiences with institutionalizing value chain promotion; should it be integrated in day to day work or added on top? How can we make sure that tomorrow there are still enough farmers and workers capable to continue to work in the value chain? Can we create opportunities for young rural people to work in or along the value chain? How can the efforts be coordinated to utilize synergy effects? How can learning institutions integrate the value chain approach in their curricula? What innovative finance models are available? How did you overcome financial constraints while upgrading your enterprise? What experiences have been gained in other countries?

c) Reaching deeper
In order to achieve sustainable development of value chains we have to look beyond the immediate business interests of value chain actors and service providers. Climate change is real and interventions should be climate neutral and mitigate the effects of climate change. Which tools have been developed to assess the impact of value chain promotion on climate change? How do we measure the carbon footprint of our product? Have gender issues, labor rights and environmental aspects been considered while planning the value chain upgrading.

By way of this Concept Paper, the Symposium organizers are requesting organizations and individuals to come forward with proposals on related topical issues for presentations. Your proposal should consist of the following;
- A short description of your organization and personal background,
- A short description of what you want to present at the workshop.
Please send your proposal to Abraham Okolla, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or Joachim Weber, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it before or by 15th July, 2011.

The organizers also cordially invite you to participate in this regional workshop and we are sure that it will greatly add to your knowledge of current developments in rural development. It will also give you ample opportunity to network with your peers throughout the region as well as international development practitioners. By sharing our experiences and learning from each other we can create valuable synergies to add value to each other’s efforts. This will allow us to reach our goal which is to Improve Value Chain performance in rural East Africa.
Please register before 15th September 2011 via email to:
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
For more information call: +254 721 573 874
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