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Self-sustaining cooperatives can influence sustainable development in SomaliaPhoto: @goobjoog.com
Cooperatives are not a new phenomenon in Somalia; they date back to the pre-colonial era. Somalis by nature have a cooperative culture because of the harsh climatic conditions they are predisposed to. While herders work together to protect their livestock, farmers work together to safeguard and market their produce. Such cooperation builds resilience among the Somalis by enhancing collective power to tackle challenges in times of distress.
Somali cooperatives currently receive no government support. During the Siad Barre regime, the scenario was different as collaboration was evident between government and cooperatives. In addition to sourcing for markets and giving access to subsidized inputs, government allocated funds to cooperatives which enabled the cooperatives purchase assets like tractors, pay token salaries to members and build cooperative centres and grain store tanks. However, the Somalia – Ethiopia war of 1977 marked the end of government support which led to the collapse of many cooperatives by 1991. The reinstatement of a new dispensation of governance after the civil war does not change the scenario for cooperatives as the government remains adamant regarding its support to the cooperatives. The government applauded the inauguration of the current administration of UDHIS that officially came into office on 26th February 2017, but still maintained the stand that cooperatives need to compete with the business community in the free economic system. The collapse of these cooperatives is an indication that the cooperatives were not self-sustaining.
Self-sustaining cooperatives can influence sustainable development. However, attaining self-sustainability requires a shift from overreliance on government and donor support. In as much as government involvement in the functions of cooperatives is inevitable, interference that distorts transparency and accountability hampers their influence in sustainable development efforts. The commitment to cooperative values, personal professional integrity, and skills by the management of cooperatives is an essential precondition to prevent overreliance on the state. It also comes in handy to combat the corruption that can occur in the co-operatives relations with the State, the cooperatives supply chain and within elected cooperative boards of directors.