Strengthening cooperatives to address decent work deficits amongst host communities and refugees

Under the PROSPECTS programme in Kenya, a 10-day training for 24 trainers was organized with the aim of increasing their capacity to work with cooperatives by using ILO cooperatives establishment and management tools.

News | 04 December 2022

The International Labour Organization (ILO) recognizes the importance of cooperatives as a means of pursuing its mandate to achieve social justice and full employment. Guided by the ILO Recommendation No. 193 on promotion of cooperatives, the ILO promotes activities aimed at strengthening cooperatives and other forms of social solidarity groups as they have a proven record of creating and sustaining employment. Cooperatives also present a tested model for inclusion of vulnerable groups including persons affected by forced displacement.

In Kenya cooperatives are recognized to be a major contributor to national development and are found in almost all sectors of the economy ranging from agriculture, financial services, trade, manufacturing etc. As of June 2020, there were over 25,000 registered cooperatives representing over 14 million members and mobilizing savings of over 7.8 billion Kenyan Shillings (US$ 63 million). 63% of Kenyans were reported to derive livelihoods directly or indirectly from cooperatives (International Cooperatives Alliance, 2020).

“Cooperatives are at the centre of Kenya’s socio-economic development. The Kenyan Government recently created a ministry for SMEs and Cooperatives and has placed social solidarity groups and cooperatives at the centre of Government’s strategy. It will contribute to growth of the local economy, provide business development services and enhance financial inclusion,” explains Caroline Njuki, Chief Technical Advisor, ILO PROSPECTS in Kenya.

Under the PROSPECTS programme in Kenya, strengthening cooperatives is one of the key outputs under the strategic objective of promoting employment and livelihoods with dignity. In November 2022, the programme organized a 10-day training for 24 trainers with the aim of increasing their capacity to work with cooperatives by using ILO cooperatives establishment and management tools.

The training focused on three key tools namely Think Coop, an easy-to-use module targeting those considering establishing or joining a cooperative. The module emphasizes on the benefits of social solidarity, how to choose a business structure, the cooperative principles among other foundational topics. The ILO Start Coop module targets those who have decided to enter cooperatives and incorporates modules ranging from defining a business idea to creating a business plan for the cooperatives. The ILO My Coop module focuses on governance for cooperatives, cooperatives management and finances. In Kenya, governance for cooperatives is guided by the Cooperatives Act of 2004, which is currently under review.

Paul Erukudi, Business Development Officer, Turkana Chamber of Commerce ©ILO

Participants at the training were drawn from the Cooperatives Department in the Turkana and Garissa County Governments, the State Department of Cooperatives at national level, NGOs promoting cooperatives activities, the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI Turkana) whose membership includes local associations, and representation from the Kenya Cooperatives University, a public institution providing education, training and research with emphasis on cooperatives development.

National Government implementation of the ILO tools

Peter Okul, the Principal Cooperatives Officer, Ministry of Cooperatives and MSMEs who is mandated to train county cooperative officers and assist cooperative societies at a national level believes that the challenges facing cooperatives in Kenya can be addressed using the ILO tools he learned.

“After this training, I now know that it is easy to tackle the challenges that most of our cooperatives are having. The cooperatives lack management and governance skills and the reason is limited skills of their facilitators [county cooperative officers/trainers],” Okul says.

Okul believes the methodology used in the training is well packaged to reach the communities, “I plan to immediately change my training approach for cooperatives officers in the county. The training uses peer-to-peer approach and it gives them the room to share what they know.”

Scholastica Nataan, County Cooprative Officer from Turkana echoes Okul, “It will be easy for us to implement what has been taught. We offer training to newly registered cooperatives and advisory services to members. We will now ensure that cooperatives improve their products and get best value for their products.”

Adopting the ILO tools for the digital sector

Fridah Mwangi presenting her groups work during the ToT ©ILO

With its 200 members, the Online Professional Workers Association of Kenya (OPWAK) has been trying to set up a cooperative since 2019. “We didn't have the capacity in terms of the information, knowledge and even the skills to become a cooperative. The ILO supported us to participate in this training and learn from it. While the training was intended for agriculture industry, we will try to adapt it for our needs,” explains Fridah Mwangi, founder of Kazi Remote which deals with BPO services and online freelancing.

“Through cooperatives, the digital workers will be able market themselves as Kenyans and will have support to deal with any disputes even outside the country. It will allow us to unite youth and provide them with right information about online employment opportunities.

The way forward

“After this training, the trainers cascade the training using the ILO modules to existing cooperatives and even new groups interested in forming cooperatives with refugee and host communities. To ensure quality training is delivered, trainers will be assessed by an ILO certified Master Trainer. On successful completion of the assessment, they will be permitted to use ILO tools for cooperatives trainings,” said Lilyanne Ndinda, National Programme Coordinator – Enterprise.

Cooperatives ToT participants, November 2022 ©ILO

Watch testimonies of the workshop participants on ILO PROSPECTS Youtube playlist. 

Paul Erukudi, Turkana Chamber of Commerce

Peter Okul, Ministery of Cooperatives and MSME, Kenya

Fridah Mwangi, Kazi remote


ILO is part of the PROSPECTS initiative launched by the Government of Netherlands in support of countries hosting large numbers of refugees. The programme aims to increase the socio-economic inclusion of refugees and host communities through different interventions. Other partners in this initiative include the International Finance Corporation (IFC), UNHCR, UNICEF and the World Bank.

Cooperative: A cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise - ILO.

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