Rotary and Oikocredit: working together to change lives
When two organizations share the same social vision, it makes sense to combine their strengths and make more of an impact in the world.
Over the past two years, Oikocredit International and Rotary Clubs in the north of the Netherlands have joined forces to support small dairy farmers in Kenya. Members of these Rotary clubs commit their knowledge, time and resources to helping the global community and in this case, the Githunguri Dairy Farmers Cooperative Society.
The Githunguri cooperative produces and markets milk and milk products under the brand name, Fresha, and is located in Kiambu - about 50 kilometres from Nairobi City. While Oikocredit has assisted the cooperative with financing since 2003, Rotary's help in providing technical training to farmers will be crucial to ensure the cooperative's long-term sustainability.
Training for the future
Almost 50 years have passed since 31 dairy farmers formed the Githunguri cooperative. For decades the group was held back by poor governance and politics until economic liberalization in 1991. Now, the cooperative is flourishing and supports about 12,000 farmers - each with an average of four cows and families of six to eight people.
Milk collection, processing and marketing are the core business aspects of the cooperative. The cooperative also runs breeding programmes and non-profit stores that sell livestock feeds and basic food for the home.
With the first Oikocredit loan of € 880,000 in 2003, a milk processing plant was built and more than 110 people were employed. Oikocredit also provided Githunguri with technical assistance and managerial support.
In 2006, Oikocredit provided a second loan of 60 million Kenyan Shillings (over € 600,000) to fund the purchase of additional equipment. More recently, Rotary provided technical training to Githunguri representatives in the Netherlands who participated in an "exposure visit" with a view to improving the management of members' dairy farms.
Further technical training of 25 locals is planned in Kenya later this year. Those locals will then train hundreds of cooperative members in modern farm management techniques.
Rotary and Oikocredit on the ground
Since 2004, the cooperative's milk production has increased four-fold, bringing the total daily milk collection to 150,000 litres and the annual turnover to two billion Kenyan Shillings (almost € 20 million).
Rotary will establish two milk collection centres and supply 40 farmers with € 2000 grants to upgrade their farming facilities and become training farms for other farmers in the district. With the help of Oikocredit, Rotarywill also set up a € 200,000 fund to give other farmers the chance to upgrade their farms with a € 2000 microloan.
Rotary District 1590 Governor Tjitte de Jong said the project would improve the quality of milk production and farm management among cooperative members.
"This means more income, improved economy and therefore a better future, in particular for poor small dairy farmers and their families," Mr de Jong said.
"The combined financial effort from Rotary Foundation and Oikocredit could be a first step for a long term strategic alliance between both organizations on a much wider scale."
A strategic alliance for development
Oikocredit Membership and Investments Director Ben Simmes said while Oikocredit was exploring the possibility of an official strategic alliance with Rotary International, he hoped more individual clubs would become involved in development projects.
"But Rotary Clubs can also invest their financial reserves directly in Oikocredit, as some Canadian clubs have recently done. That means their funds are working for a good cause instead of sitting in a bank or generating uncertain financial returns," Mr Simmes said.
"Usually investments are made to aim for the highest possible financial return without too much concern for how that return is earned. An investment in Oikocredit means financial reserves are going towards poverty alleviation."
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