One Cooperative’s Improved Organizational Capacity Strengthens Services Offered to Producers in Rural Mozambique
The Forum of Associations of Producers of Mathariya (FACAM) is a smallholder farmer cooperative in the Rubáuè District of Nampula Province, Mozambique, that was formally registered in 2008 to serve as a platform organization for different associations. FACAM has 421 members, of whom 220 are women, distributed across 22 smallholder farmer clubs, each of which has its own leadership. The main purpose of FACAM is to provide commercialization services to members, as well as to protect forest resources, disseminate best practices for the sustainable use of mineral resources and advocate on behalf of those affected by epidemic and endemic diseases like HIV/AIDS within the members’ communities.
Although FACAM aspired to grow its organization and business ventures, an assessment conducted by the USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program in June 2021 highlighted several improvements that the Forum needed to make in order to take their activities to the next level. For example, low membership retention resulted in a reduction in income from dues, which are used to fund the cooperative. Additionally, the cooperative’s high turnover rate meant that FACAM members had limited relationships with clients, and therefore fewer clients using their commercialization services. The cooperative also had inconsistent organizational management and record keeping structures, making it difficult to track operations and extract data for financial statements.
In October 2021, the cooperative received its first of two F2F paired assignments involving local volunteers working on the ground while collaborating with U.S.-based volunteers remotely. The local volunteer, Dieter Savaio from Manica province, is a teacher at the Higher Polytechnic Institute of Manica. He is also a shareholder of Emilia Commercial Seed Company and a consultant who had spare time to volunteer with F2F due to the COVID-19 restrictions placed on in-person classes. The U.S. volunteer, Joe McFadden from New Jersey, spent the last 40 years of his career as a certified public accountant working in accounting, auditing, budgeting, financial analysis and financial reporting.
After assessing FACAM’s financial management practices, the volunteers assisted their managers to set up a simple financial management and bookkeeping system. As a result, the cooperative now uses printed forms to document sales, expenses, income statements, balance sheets and controls of stock, debtors, creditors and cash flow.
In December 2021, Savaio again supported FACAM, this time with veteran U.S. volunteer Pamela Karg from Wisconsin, to assist the cooperative in improving their organizational capacity. The volunteer assistance focused on increasing due payments and strengthening leadership and association management, including improving understanding of the association’s function and the rights and duties of members. The volunteers conducted a SWOT analysis with the FACAM board members to assess major operational constraints. The volunteers also trained the club members associated with FACAM in association function, highlighting the importance of participatory management strategies. At the end of the assignment, Savaio presented recommendations to FACAM Board members for improving the organization and helping them achieve their goals.
As result of the F2F trainings, currently 60% of the members are paying their dues – a considerable increase from before. Additionally, sale volumes increased from 640 ton in 2021 to 970 ton in 2022, as an increasing number of farmer clubs commercialized their products through FACAM due to its improved organization and services offered to clubs and non-associated producers.
Fast forward and in August 2022, FACAM received a grant from the INKOTA consortium to initiate mechanization and transport services through the purchase of tools such as a tractor and a trailer. Even though INKOTA received applications from four cooperatives located in Ribáuè district, FACAM was the only one that met the conditions required by INKOTA to have a strong organizational capacity.
Antonio Joaquim, president of FACAM, noted his gratitude for the assistance his cooperative received from F2F volunteers, stating that “FACAM now develops its business in a professional way. Our vision is to continue growing and we will count on more assistance from F2F to support us to better position ourselves in the market.”