Case Studies - Cooperatives - Uganda

Bukonzo Joint Cooperative Microfinance Society Ltd., Kasese District, Uganda   

 

Type of institution for collective action

Cooperative

Name/description institution  

Bukonzo Joint Cooperative Microfinance Society Ltd.

Country 

Uganda

Region

Kasese District, Western Uganda

Name of city or specified area 

Kyarumba Town, Bukonzo County
 
It’s area of operation embraces the following sub-counties of Bukonzo county: Kyalhumba, Kyondo, Kisinga, Lake Katwe, Maliba, and Mahango.

Further specification location (e.g. borough, street etc.)

End of main road.

 

For location on Google Maps, click here.

Surface area and boundaries

Owns 3.7 acres (ab. 1.5 hectares): microfinance centre, headquarter, and coffee storage sheds. BJCMS does not have own coffee plantations.

Foundation/start of institution, date or year

1999

Foundation year: is this year the confirmed year of founding or is this the year this institution is first mentioned?

Confirmed.

Foundation act present?

Yes, founding constitution exists.

Description of Act of foundation

See above.

Year of termination of institution

Continues to operate today.

Year of termination: estimated or confirmed?

N/a.

Act regarding termination present?

 

N/a.

Description Act of termination

N/a.

Reason for termination?

N/a.

Recognized by local government?

This is a voluntary association without legal power over members. External agencies recognize the institution as exemplarily approach of marrying microfinance and coffee marketing in Western Uganda.

Concise history of institution

General

 

The extensive mountainous landscape and its regular rainfalls provide the Rwenzori community in the West of Uganda with ideal conditions for planting Arabica coffee which is commonly cultivated between 1,300 and 1,500 meters of altitude. Coffee is a major income-earner for many households in the Rwenzori highlands.

 

The first community self-help groups were identified by the Uganda Change Agency Association (UCAA) between 1991 and 1996. UCAA then selected potential “change agents” from existing self-help groups in various sub-counties of Bukonzo County and invited them to a “Change Agent Training Course”. After the training, change agents returned to their communities and shared their experience and knowledge with members of their self-help group, as well as with other neigbouring groups. 

 

According to Demirguc-Kunt and Klapper (2012), 26 percent of Ugandan men have a formal bank account while only 15 percent of women had a bank account. Lack of access to traditional loan and savings products is particularly acute in rural areas where only 6 percent of household have a savings account.

 

Institution: Bukonzo Joint Microfinance Cooperative Ltd.

 

In 1999, Bukonzo Joint united eleven of the self-help groups set up by the “change agents” and started as a typical microfinance association (MFA) comprising. The first eleven groups that started to access agriculuture and small business loans were purely female groups, although the self-help groups were not exclusive for women. 

 

In 2004, Bukonzo Joint Cooperative Microfinance Ltd. (BJMS) became a registered cooperative at Ugandan Cooperative Alliance (UCA). Its initial mission was to provide microfinance services to the poor, remote mountainous farming communities in Western Uganda’s Rwenzori Mountains, which, due to civil strife, abduction by the Allied Democratic Force (ADF) in the mid-1990s has been marginalized in the past.

 

The MFA offers one savings product (interest rate: half a percent per month) and one loan product (interest rate: two percent per month). Each group elects its chairman, cashier, loans officer, and secretaries. When group members want to apply for a loan they need to explain the purpose of the loan to their group members. At each weekly group meeting the progress repayment schedule (or installment plan) is checked by other group members. In the case of late-repayment or credit default solidarity group members, comprising of five members within the production group, are liable for repayment after liquidation of creditor’s savings.

 

Over the years Bukonzo Joint's trainings in organic coffee farming techniques and business development efforts were funded by its members’ microfinance revenues, and by organizations that supported the cooperative's training in organic coffee farming techniques and business development efforts. Bukonzo East Training Team (BETT), an internal training team of the cooperative pursues specific trainings in group formation, organic farming techniques, leadership trainings, business planning, and microfinance operations. In 2007, the groups were trained in Gender Action Learning System (GALS) which is based on inclusive and participatory principles and simple mapping and diagram tools for individual life/livelihood planning and collective action/gender advocacy for change (see WEMAN link).

 

In 2005, the cooperative added another focus besides its microfinance and capacity building components. It established a coffee marketing association in order to provide easier market access and therefore generate higher prices for member’s coffee produce.

 

Since 2005 BJCMS followed a dynamic growth path. Between 2005 and 2010, share purchases increased from UGX 18,185,550 (approx. US$ 5,500) to UGX 320,725,047 (approx. US$ 96,000) and saving deposits grew from UGX 116,425,450 (approx. US$ 35,000) to UGX 755,344,987 (approx. US$ 227,000). Also, from its original 11 self-help farmer groups in 1999, the cooperative grew to 76 in 5 different sub-counties in March 2012. Female members still dominate membership with 75 percent in 2012.

 

Special events? Highs and lows? Specific problems or problematic periods?

In 2005, the cooperative established a coffee marketing association in order to generate higher prices for member’s coffee produce rather than selling to middle buyers. In 2009 BJCMS produced over 370 tons of green coffee for international export (through Mombasa, Kenya) and national processors. Since then, the cooperative exports to the British Twin Trading Company a quarter of its highest quality coffee produce. In 2012, the cooperative expects to be awarded the fair trade certificate of the Fairtrade Labelling Organization (FLO). The cooperative applied for an organic farming license in 2011. There are also plans to launch roasting and packaging of coffee beans at the cooperative level.

Membership

Numbers of members (specified)

At the end of 2010 BJC registered 76 self-help (production) groups form 7 different primary (coffee) cooperatives with total membership of 3,900 individuals - 75 percent female.

Membership attainable for every one, regardless of social class or family background?

Voluntary association and open to both potential female and male members.

Specific conditions for obtaining membership? (Entrance fee, special tests etc.)

In order to become a member of BJCMS, individuals (males and females) must join or found their own production group of at least 15 members at one of the 7 primary coffee cooperatives that are registered under the apex cooperative BJCMS. After a six-months group training by the cooperative’s internal trainings team BETT in group formation, by-laws, microfinance, organization, leadership, and organic coffee farming techniques, new members agree to buy an unlimited number of shares from their savings within their first six months of membership.

Specific reasons regarding banning members from the institution?

None mentioned in this case study.

Advantages of membership?

  • Access to business development funds through microfinance services (e.g. credit and savings) 
  • Negotiate higher prices in contract farming through joint coffee marketing and lower prices for agricultural inputs like seeds, fertilizer and equipment 
  • Provision of safe and dry storage facilities and transport for the dried green coffee beans and hence reduced individual farmer’s risks associated with correct storage (e.g. mould and insects)
  • Access to training in organic coffee farming and best post-harvest handling techniques is likely to improve the quality and output of members’ coffee
  • Information sharing, networking and support consultation from fellow farmers on the group level

 

Obligations of members? 

  • Regular weekly attendance
  • On-time repayment of loans
  • Production of high-quality organic Arabica coffee (i.e. pick and pulp or pick, dry, and hull green beans)

Literature on case study

  • Mayoux, Linda, 2011. Taking Gender Seriously: Towards a Gender Justice Protocol for Financial Services. In Beatríz Armendáriz and Marc Labie (eds), The Microfinance Handbook, pp. 613-41. Singapore [etc.] : World Scientific.

Sources on case study

  • Demirguc-Kunt, Asli and Leora Klapper, 2012, Measuring Financial Inclusion: The Global Findex Database. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 6025. Available online here.
  • Bukonzo Joint Cooperative Microfinance Society Ltd, 2010. Annual Report 2009-2010. Available online here.

Links to further information on case study:

Case study composed by

Felix Meier zu Selhausen, Mountains of the Moon University