The Indigenous Cooking Oil partnership in Ethiopia, a collaboration between 2SCALE and Tsehay Multi-Purpose Farmers' Cooperative Union (TMFCU), is more than just about producing cooking oil. It's about impacting lives, communities, and businesses. This partnership's approach of integrating smallholder farmers into a well-functioning value chain not only increases the production and productivity of oilseeds but also provides affordable and healthy cooking oil to the Base of the Pyramid (BoP) consumers.
Founded in 2000 with just 5 cooperatives, TMFCU has witnessed remarkable growth over the years, encompassing 142 member cooperatives spread across 12 districts, engaging a total of 120,450 smallholder farmers, including 27,703 women. However, the journey was not without its share of challenges.
TMFCU faced significant business management hurdles. These included severe working capital shortages that disrupted operations and staff salaries, key management departures that eroded trust among internal and external stakeholders, and plummeting staff morale. Consequentially, the union struggled to cope with the demands of rapid growth. Rather than letting these challenges define their fate, TMFCU and 2SCALE decided to tackle them head-on.
Overcoming the challenges
Facilitated by the partnership, Technical Assistance played a pivotal role in TMFCU's transformation, starting in 2020. This year marked the introduction of team building training sessions, fostering unity and a renewed sense of purpose among the staff. Additionally, a dedicated task force comprising experts from various organizations was established, formulating comprehensive recommendations to tackle TMFCU's challenges.
The impact of these interventions was nothing short of astounding. The union experienced a significant revitalization, with governance meetings involving officials from different authority levels laying the groundwork for recovery.