General Union of Co-operatives (UGC) Mozambique
Yvon Poirier, June 2005
The history of the UGC is highly inspiring. From a modest start-up in 1980, UGC is now one of the most important co-operatives in Mozambique and its experience beams outside the country.
One must note that after independence in 1974, this country was extremely poor, and in an effort to survive 7 co-operatives with a membership of 250 small farms formed the UGC in 1980.
As provided in UGC information pamphlets: “ The movement, made up almost entirely of unemployed women with low levels of schooling and no technical training, initially sought to provide its members with support to acquire food items at wholesale prices and an additional income to the household through the sales of their agricultural products. After the training courses under UGC, the members improved their technical capacity, level of organization, management skills and reversed their situation. The women became in many cases main figures of their families. By the end of the 80’s, the main production activities shifted from agriculture to aviculture (poultry raising).”
In 2005, UGC is composed of over 200 co-operatives, with 6000 members of whom 95% are women. UGC is now the most important producer of poultry in Mozambique. The entire production process was put into place including incubation, slaughterhouses to marketing. While continuing its activities and training, the UGC has put into place Health Centers (available to non-members as well), micro-credit services and a Savings and Credit Co-operative (2004).
In the beginning, the initiative was marginal and mostly ignored. Now the UGC is recognized in Mozambique and outside the country. The president, Ms. Cossa, explained that the President of Mozambique attends their meetings on occasion. And with much humor, Ms. Cossa indicated to us that now men are asking to be accepted as members of the co-operative!
Ms Cossa is an excellent ambassador for her organization and she is very active in Mozambique as well as at international forums in Africa and abroad. Since 2001, Ms. Cossa is also and elected member of the Assembly for her municipality, Maputo, the capital of the country.
This article was produced from presentations given by Ms. Celina Cossa, president of the UGC at the Canadian Network Conference for Economic and Community Development held last May 4th to 7th and from documentation produced by the UGC.
The article is available on the blog: International Newsletter on Sustainable Local Development.