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The General Union of agricultural and Livestock Cooperatives of Maputo

Maputo
Mozambique

 

The General Union of Agricultural and Livestock Cooperatives of Maputo (UGC, 1980) is a multi-sector organisation working in the poorer sectors of society, and is a system based on the principles of self-management. Its philosophy for growth is based on a principle of needing to create the economic and social conditions that enable the members of the cooperative, who are mostly women, to gain access and control of economic and social resources, and thus to empower them to take decisions that lead to an improvement in economic and social development.

The context for the emergence of the UGC – during the period of independence – was favourable for its development because the State was encouraging the cooperative movement at that time. During that period, Maputo's fertile and productive greenbelt was occupied by countless cooperatives aiming to implement the local policy that gave power to individuals living in cities. During the country’s economic crisis during the 1980s and 1990s as a result of various episodes of violence, the green areas were one of the cornerstones guaranteeing food security.

Several areas occupied by UGC were affected by increasing disputes over land (between land for agriculture and land for urban construction) from the 1990s onwards. However, due to the cooperatives' organisational need to survive in this context, as well as the concept of the opportunity to mitigate the community's economic difficulties, the UGC succeeded in becoming consolidated as a democratic management body and as a driving force behind economic development.

Actually

In terms of political objectives, the UGC is currently committed to increasing the role of cooperatives as a platform for raising awareness of their members' social position, and as cornerstones in the struggle to solve their problems. Providing access to production resources, such as land and credit, for cooperative members; providing formal education for members and training in modern production technologies; and creating means for democratic control of the Union's activities and participation in decisions are some of the priorities of the UGC, for which the struggle for access to land and economic support is a means of empowerment.

Beneficiaries and achievements

  • Beneficiaries: The UGC, local cooperatives, and member farmers. The UGC aims to provide its members with food supplements and additional income to minimise the shortcomings of family units.
  • Participation processes implemented: All the organisation’s initiatives, measures, and the organisational structure are decided upon democratically by the UGC members.
  • Institutionalization processes: The most important institutionalization processes are the creation of democratic management institutions such as the General Assembly, the Board of Directors, the Fiscal Committee, the Management Committee, and the Monitoring Committee. All these bodies are at the service of the members. A democratic structure has also been created and implemented so that the UGC can take decisions and ensure representation for members on the various management bodies.
  • Financing: Today, the UGC is self-financing based on the results of its management activities.
  • Key results and achievements: The UGC has had economic and social effects on more than 5,500 members in 12 areas around Maputo. Of particular importance are: the diversification of the organisation of production, the modernisation of member cooperatives, the implementation of production mechanisms in order to compete with large-scale producers, and the creation of a national and international network of cooperatives.

Among initiatives in the social arena that are taking place are: the establishment of a space for solving members' problems, a forum for participatory and democratic decision-making, technical training for members, social activities such as children's nurseries, community health centres, and access to a basic education service for members and their relatives.

Challenges and limitations

The obstacles have also had economic and social consequences, such as the low productivity levels of some cooperatives; the lack of internal organisation of some member cooperatives, which has hindered efficient economic management; unfair competition from large businesses; and also, to a certain extent, the limited interest among its members in the economic development of the UGC and unfair competition in product prices due to imports from other countries (South Africa and Brazil). There also have been changes in social structures as a result of factors such as immigration, the low levels of quality of life in the region, and the underlying need to improve access to local public services. Finally, the growing demand for land used for real estate speculation in Maputo's green belt endangers not only the area's fragile environmental balance but also the survival of the city's green areas.