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The ICA-AP-DAMC Training of Trainers program on “Building Management Capacity of Women for Co-operative Development” was held from 1-5 August 2017 in Thimphu, Bhutan. The 5-day program had a combination of lectures, hands-on exercises and study visit to meet co-op members and co-operatives in Bhutan.

 

Group photo of the participants

 

Mr. Rinzin Dorji, Hon’ble Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, Royal Government of Bhutan delivered the opening address, where he acknowledged that the cooperative movement in Bhutan is new when compared to other countries, but working through cooperatives is a strategy which is highly relevant in Bhutan. He spoke of Bhutan’s challenges in agriculture, despite the sector being the mainstay of its economy. Therefore, working together in groups and cooperatives to gain the benefits of economy of scale makes a lot of sense. With little push from the government, farmers have therefore come forward and many groups and cooperatives have sprung up in the country. As of now, they have 55 cooperatives and 300+ farmer groups involved in various kinds of activities – from the growing of crops and rearing of livestock to processing of food and marketing to savings and credit business and also in the service sector.

 

Youth unemployment is a growing concern in Bhutan and it is heartening to see young people taking initiatives to form groups and take up different kinds of business ventures. Likewise, women participation is very promising in terms of membership, women constitute around 45 percent in Farmer groups, and 47 percent in cooperatives. However, in terms of leadership, there is room for improvement. Only around 20 percent of the office bearers in cooperatives and farmer groups are actually women. He said that “I personally believe that cooperatives offer a viable platform for promoting people’s participation in the socio-economic `development process and eventually in the nation building” and urged all the participants to make the most of this training to learn and imbibe valuable lessons and experiences.

 

The technical training session was divided into the following sessions:

 

1.          Status of women empowerment and gender equality in co-operatives

2.          Sustainable Development Goals and Co-operatives

3.          Leadership for successful coop business - Importance of Leadership skill in co-op success: The essentials of good leadership

4.          Establishment, growth and development of saving and credit co-operatives

5.          Financial Management of a Co-operatives Business

6.          Monitoring and Evaluation of Coops: handholding at the initial stage

 

We were privileged to have Dr. P.A. Kiriwandeniya, Chairman, Federation of Thrift and Credit Cooperative Societies Ltd (SANASA) as a resource person. SANASA has established itself in Sri Lanka as a pioneering credit coop movement and has 7% population of the population as it’s member. During his session on savings and credit co-operatives and financial management, he covered several topics including, ‘examples of credit and saving co-ops in Sri Lanka’, ‘why do some co-ops fail: keys to success’, ‘working in harmony: how can we build trust and bonding between members’ etc.

 

The other resource persons during the training were Ms. Savitri Singh, Program Director; Mr. Mohit Davie, Research Officer, ICA-EU Project; and Mr. Changa Dorji, ADB consultant and trainer  

 

The training concluded with discussions on the way forward and with the participants completing a feed-back form.  The training was conducted with the support of JCCU and the ICA-EU Partnership on Co-operatives in Development: People Centered Businesses in Action.