Co-op Week

Eswatini Co-operative Sector: Lifting and Leveraging the Great Work of Co-operators

by Fiona Duguid, Principal Researcher 

As Canadian’s celebrate Co-op Week from Oct 16-22, 2022, a project with the Eswatini co-operative sector shows what can happen when two governments work co-operatively. The Canadian government and the Government of Eswatini are working together on an evidence-based, gender-sensitive review of the Eswatini co-operative sector with the objective to inspire and uphold a vibrant co-operative sector that feeds the local/domestic economy and improves the livelihoods of members and communities.

The project began in May with three phases including: stakeholder consultation, validation of findings, and co-creation of initiatives. Throughout the project over 100 people have been consulted from over 34 organizations including co-operatives, government ministries, banks, community development organizations, learning institutions, and federations. These conversations were rolled into findings under the framework of strengths, weaknesses, challenges and opportunities, which were then validated with the co-operative eco-system stakeholders. With this information five initiatives were co-created. These initiatives are purposely designed to help lift the great work the co-operative eco-system is already doing. Initiatives include: a youth experiential co-op farm, more peer to peer learning opportunities in the agricultural co-op sector, capacity building through strategic training partnership between key learning organizations, the development of a community economic development fund, and capacity building for the delivery of a co-operative microfinance fund.

This project is part of the Government of Canada’s Technical Assistance Partnership – Expert Deployment Mechanism (TAP-EDM) in collaboration with Alinea International, which plays a small part in the past, present and future of the Eswatini cooperative sector. What the TAP project enables are experts whose strength is the outsider looking in, the third set of eyes, seeing the forest for the trees, making connections, and bringing the experiences of Canadian as well as showcasing global co-operatives.

As we celebrate Co-op Week in Canada, we join the global co-operative movement – a movement working to support the economic, social and cultural aspirations of everyday people, every day. People working collectively to enact the co-operative ethos of participation, democracy, transparency, self-responsibility, and mutuality. While not without challenges, the co-operative sector and co-operative eco-system in Eswatini is ripe with opportunities – some have a short runway, some have a longer runway. This project has provided the opportunity to lift and leverage the great work and efforts of Eswatini co-operators.