Voluntary Technical Assistance Leads a Co-op to Success
Kamwendo Cooking Oil Cooperative (KCOC) in Malawi, a small cooperative that processes vegetable oil, was founded by a group of groundnut farmers who wanted to use the raw materials they grew to manufacture oil that could be sold on the market at a better price. The aim of the cooperative is to improve the community’s livelihoods through the provision of groundnut processing services to the smallholder farmers in the region.
The cooperative’s members lacked understanding of financial and organizational management to successfully run the newly formed cooperative. Furthermore, they lacked the necessary knowledge of the cooking oil market and did not understand the importance of quality standards and basic sanitation practices, which led to the production of oil that was neither safe for consumption nor appealing to consumers. These constraints greatly limited the cooperative’s ability to successfully enter the oil market.
In 2011, the cooperative requested volunteer technical assistance from CNFA’s USAID-supported Farmer-to-Farmer program. Two agricultural experts with vast experience in small business accounting and management trained the group in basic bookkeeping and business management, which enabled the coop to appreciate the importance of proper accounting practices for a successful business. Two additional volunteers in 2011 and 2012, both marketing experts, trained coop members in marketing and strategic business planning, which enhanced members’ ability to identify potential clients and promote their product in an effort to increase their market share. In 2013, a fourth volunteer with extensive knowledge in industrial food processing trained the coop in recommended quality production procedures through the principles of total quality management (TQM).
As a result of these four F2F volunteer technical assistance assignments, KCOC has seen major improvements in its operations, including:
- Qualifying for a Malawi Bureau of Standards certificate, a local quality regulatory agency, spurring opportunities to market their product to larger retail shops across the country
- Increase in gross annual sales of nearly $8k since 2011
- Winning the One Village one Product (OVOP) award celebrating innovations in manufacturing products from local resources for two consecutive years (2012 and 2013)