Letters & Opinion

Local Cooperatives Urged to Mount Learning Campaign

By Richard Edwin

“Cooperative practitioners are reminded that the 5th principle is not just simply to inform the membership about cooperative business and trading member loyalty. It is a tool used in cooperative learning to cultivate the culture and skills needed to develop successful cooperatives.”

The St Lucia Cooperative Movement, in particular small-farmer primary cooperative societies, is in dire need of support to facilitate growth, development and to build strength. Primary farmers’ societies are weak; they lack support and resources to continue their existence. The leadership lack the required competencies, to lead, to manage, to govern. The membership is uninspired; they are not engaged. They are not keen to take part in decisions to plan the future course of their own development. They don’t show up for meetings and so, interests diminish. Many primary farmers’ cooperatives societies are practically dormant and faced with the prospect of becoming de-registered. Accordingly, in order to mitigate this crisis, these societies are urged to mount a Cooperative Learning Campaign.

A Cooperative Learning Campaign is not necessarily a high cost undertaking. It is easily applicable to the local situation, practical and effective. It can be modeled after the 5th Principle of cooperatives learning developed by the Rochdale Pioneers in 1844 and bequeathed to cooperatives around the globe.

The 5th Principle of cooperatives is classic; it provides cooperatives with an enduring teaching legacy that included, classroom skills to deliver lectures on a range of subjects and topics: self-help, self-responsibility, self-development accountability, solidarity, business ethics, marketing, public speaking and others. The 5th Principle has been the central feature promoting personal growth, skills development, knowledge sharing and understanding of cooperative values for practitioners in more than 100 years. In fact, the 5th Principle experiment is being used to help cooperatives succeed around the world.

The International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) underscores the enduring importance and value of the 5th Principle, when it states:

Cooperatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperative. They inform the general public, particularly young people and opinion leaders, about the nature and benefits of cooperation.

Cooperative practitioners are reminded that the 5th principle is not just simply to inform the membership about cooperative business and trading member loyalty. It is a tool used in cooperative learning to cultivate the culture and skills needed to develop successful cooperatives.

Moreover, the 5th Principle is an important avenue for cooperatives across the globe to advance cooperative vision, mission, objectives and interests, create a community of best practices for good management, leadership and effective governance, teach members necessary skills, roles, responsibilities, build member capacity and competences, promote member rights, cooperative identity, commitment, the principles of democracy and help members make informed decisions, share the aspirations of their organization with the leadership.

A Cooperative Learning Campaign will benefit the local Cooperative Movement in many ways:

It will raise public awareness about the potential power of cooperatives and the positive contribution of that sector to the development of the national economy.

It will show members that by working together and pooling the resources, they can create good paying, durable jobs. Cooperatives can do much to grow safe and healthy food, and contribute positively to food security and protection of the environment.

Cooperative Learning will strengthen the capacity of local farmers’ cooperative societies, help members develop efficient organizations, build membership skills, their leadership, management and governance capabilities.

Ultimately, Cooperative Learning will prepare the next generation of cooperators to build on the legacy and meet tomorrow’s challenges of the local Cooperative Movement.

Egbert Stevens, Registrar of Cooperatives, the Department Cooperatives said that a Cooperative Learning Campaign must be targeted and focused. It must be geared to educate a new generation of cooperators. It therefore, must reach out to students in primary, secondary schools and colleges, youth, parents, the churches, community leaders, farmers, the general public. Also, the Campaign must be strategic with the knowledge it shares with its audience and the public to ensure that the initiative is successful.

Recognizing the urgency of Cooperative Learning for local cooperative practitioners, the Interim Committee charged with promoting the proposed National Farmers Agri-Business Cooperative is eager to be part of a team to lead the local Cooperative Learning Campaign.

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