Co-operatives Integral to Village Economy, Community Development – Micro Financing Assisting Community Groups
While entrepreneurial activity has the potential to create vibrant and thriving village economies, a primary challenge to starting a business is getting enough venture capital to get the business going. The development of co-operatives is a possible solution to the problem, however even in some cases community members even after pooling their resources, may still come up short.
The Sustainable Livelihood Entrepreneurial Development project provides an avenue to assist community groups in creating profitable small start-up businesses. The SLED Department, which falls under the purview of the Ministry of Social Protection, has provided micro financing assistance to several newly established Co-operative groups across the country. As a result of this assistance, there are now several start-up businesses catering to the needs of their communities while providing employment and skills training.
After recently launching one such co-operative business which focuses on the processing of fish in Region three; four additional co-operatives groups have now gotten into gear in Region two, while another three are developing in Region five, as others across the country begin to take shape.
One of the SLED groups, The Women on the Rise Cooperative Society of Region five, produced their third batch of birds through poultry rearing as a result of the SLED programme. They held a small gathering and present were Member of Parliament, Hon. Jennifer Wade and Regional Executive Officer Mr. Ovid Morrison.
Mr. Morrison reminded the women of the importance cooperatives played in the history of the regional development and the future of its success lies in the willingness to run with the vision. Ms. Dhanmattie Sohai of the Ministry’s Micro Projects Unit reminded the women that “business is about making money in order for it to be a source of sustenance for the community”; while further encouraging them to persevere.
The groups are predominantly comprised of women who seized the opportunity to pool their resources for their financial empowerment.
The Little Red Village, a tranquil community on the Essequibo Coast, is a low income village where the males in most families seek work in the field of mining. Women of that community have taken the initiative to start a sewing group to cater to the needs of school children living there. The starting of the group is a venture of the Onderneeming/Sandpit multi-purpose co-operative.
Mr. Leroy Nelson, Chairperson of the community development council and a member of the Co-operative, said “while some persons may have unfavorable views about co-ops, he believes that with the help of the Ministry of Social Protection, his group has been able to make significant strides and is now poised to enhance the development of their community”.
Ms. Leona Cornelious, the head of the sewing group, said she has been living in the village since it was established in 2009 and has been plying her trade as the community’s seamstress since; she is now happy to be involved in training other women.
In Lima Sands, another village on the Essequibo coast, approximately thirteen miles removed from the public road, women again have come together to empower themselves financially through the creation of cooperatives and the assistance of the SLED initiative.
Ms. Urania Success, chairperson of the women’s Multi-Purpose Co-op of Lima-Sands, walked door to door to mobilize the women in her community to start a female solidarity group to address issues they are facing. After being successful, it was her initiative to start a co-op so that the women could get into business to solve the issue of unemployment and financial difficulties.
With effort from the women and assistance from the Ministry of Social Protection, the women now both own and work at the Lima Sands Women Home Style Bakery.
Ms. Manerva McLennan, a member of the co-op, recounted when her interest was first sparked in pooling resources she said:
“As there are no jobs in the community, we were sitting there one day and Ms. Success came to us as women and asked if we would support her in forming a women’s group, I said aunty Urania that is a very good suggestion because most of the time we have nothing to do and most of the women depend on their husbands, who go into the interior and that’s a gamble.”
Ms. McLennan said she has been a member of the group since and has offered to the group a space within her plot of land to temporarily house the bakery until the group are able to purchase land of their own.
The Ministry of Social Protection have completed twenty Sustainable Livelihood Entrepreneurial Development Projects in nine regions of Guyana for the year 2017. With an increased budget for the SLED programme for 2018 the department envisage an increased number for SLED projects in this new year.