COOPERATIVES are becoming tools for economic empowerment, especially in the rural areas. They are government partners in the delivery of livelihood and micro-entrepreneurial activities geared to addressing the problem of poverty and, to some extent, resolve insurgency.
On August 29, the Nkonkobe Municipality's Local Economic Development Unit hosted a Cooperatives Indaba in Alice - with the theme "Sustaining co-operatives through information sharing and networking".
2012 is recognised by the United Nations as the International Year of Co-operatives, highlighting the contribution of cooperatives to socio-economic development, particularly their impact on poverty eradication, employment generation and social integration.
The Indaba therefore was meant to encourage support and the development of cooperative enterprises by individuals and their communities. It also looked at raising public awareness of the invaluable contribution that financial cooperative enterprises can make towards financial inclusion.
Over 40 cooperatives invited were given crucial information on how to overcome the challenges stifling their development and keep their projects running.
Issues of, among others, project planning, institutional capacity, access to finance, product quality and standards, packaging, branding and pricing were also discussed.
Participants were selected from the municipality's database of cooperatives in the Nkonkobe region.
Addressing the Indaba, Nkonkobe Municipality Mayor Cllr Ntsangani said: "Through cooperatives, people in many areas are forging an economic empowerment that gives them a more vital role in regional and national development. Therefore the incubation and development of cooperatives by government and communities is critical."
The Indaba also featured various government departments and financial structures, which gave information support and advice on how best to grow and develop coops. These included: Amathole District Municipality, Department of Trade and Industry's Cooperative Incentives Scheme, Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Small Enterprise Development Agency, Rural Development and Agrarian Reform, Nkonkobe Economic Development Agency, ASPIRE and the University of Fort Hare's Institute for Cooperative Development and the Centre for Enterprise Development.