It isn’t every day that the world witnesses the birth of a cooperative made up of more than 1,400 women.
It is even rarer in Africa. The co-op is located in northeast Ghana: the rice parboilers co-op of Bolgatanga, Bawku and Navrongo (BBN Cooperative), supported by SOCODEVI as part of the PROCED project.
“SOCODEVI is pleased to give concrete expression to Canada’s feminist international aid policy through the cooperative model. These women now possess a powerful structure for furthering their communities’ sustainable and inclusive development, their economic empowerment and their personal emancipation.”
-Jean-Philippe Marcoux, SOCODEVI CEO. ”
Around 180 delegates from 59 women farmer-based organizations took part in the Foundation’s first constitutional assembly on October 9, 2020.
“I was filled with pride when I walked into the room and saw all these women seated together,” says Beatrice Esses, PROCED Project Coordinator in Ghana.
For the first time, members of the new cooperative expressed their democratic power through the adoption of articles and by-laws, as well as the election of nine individuals to the Board of Directors.
Gilberta Akuka, the newly-appointed President of BBN, expressed her satisfaction at the end of the meeting. “The Constitutional Assembly was very well-organized and the delegates understood the processes without much difficulty,” she said. “Our goals were achieved—it was a success!”
Women empowering women
The creation of this cooperative demonstrates the women’s willingness to work together to improve their living conditions and facilitate access to inputs, rice parboiling (post-harvest processing) equipment, and expertise.
The BBN Cooperative will also be involved in parboiled rice processing and commercialization for its members.
“I am delighted that the cooperative’s members came together. Alone we go faster, but together we go further. Together, we will achieve our goals.”
-Esther Nsohbil, BBN delegate for the district of Bolgatanga.
The women have already been receiving training through SOCODEVI Field Schools for one year to develop leadership skills and enhance their rice parboiling techniques, while also taking into account environmental considerations.
The members were also able to prepare for their first cooperative constitutional assembly. District meetings were held for the purposes of training members on the democratic process and informing them of rules and obligations, as well as electing delegates from the 59 farmer-based organizations.
“I was pleased with the delegates’ participation and compliance with COVID-19 health measures. The voting process was impressive and all of the delegates knew their roles and responsibilities.”
-Beatrice Esses, Project Coordinator in Ghana.
The constitutional assembly of the BBN Cooperative was held in the presence of the regional representative of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food of Ghana as well as the representative of the Youth Harvest Foundation Ghana, a partner of both SOCODEVI and BBN.
SOCODEVI’s support is provided through the PROCED project, funded by Global Affairs Canada. The project goal is to improve the living conditions of cooperative member households—and especially women—in targeted regions of Senegal, Ivory Coast, and Ghana, to promote women’s empowerment, and to contribute to developing the cooperative enterprise.
An article written with the collaboration of Suzanne N’Gouandi.