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02/19/2015

First Exchange Program between Agricultural Cooperative Societies (ACSs)

On January 28th we assembled 42 members of 6 Agricultural Cooperative Societies (ACSs) that JEN formed during the 2013-2014 project and in the on-going project. It was our first time to have beneficiaries from different assistance periods and areas meet each other. So JEN staffs were both excited and a bit worried in obtaining our main objectives:
1. Networking between ACSs
2. Sharing success stories, challenges and problem solving methods

From 7am, we hired two buses that drove through 4 areas to pick up the participants and around 9:30am all participants reached the ACS Center (Compost Making Yard). After providing some refreshments, we started the exchange program at 10am. First of all, the President of the Compost Making Yard ACS welcomed all participants and then all participants introduced themselves to others about where they are from, their roles (president, treasurer, secretary, etc.) in the ACS, what activities they are doing, and what they expect for the exchange program.

【The bus that transported ACS members】
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【The Compost Making Yard that was established in 2014】
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【Welcomed by ACS members】
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【JEN Field Officer making a welcome speech】
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The discussion session started by explanations from Compost Making Yard ACS members about roles/responsibilities of each position, running costs, keeping meeting minutes and account records, raw material collection, compost making procedures, marketing methods, etc. In addition, registration procedures of cooperative societies, relationship building with government officers and future goals were shared as well. As the ACS members for the ongoing project lacked confidence in continuously running the ACS and how to solve issues that may hinder their activities, they posed lots of questions about their concerns. All questions were answered in an understandable language. The session ended with all members mixed and divided into small groups to discuss about possibilities of cooperation in the near future to develop as an ACS.

【After getting into small groups the members brainstormed about the roles of an treasurer】
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【Sharing what they discussed to all the participants】
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The ongoing project held multiple workshops during the past 10 months, such as community strengthening, agricultural skills training, marketing, and management of cooperative societies. They were facilitated by government agency officers and we made extra effort to make the content as simple and easy to understand as possible by including many group activities and discussion among participants. This exchange program proved that “peer education” can be as effective as trainings from experts. Because all participants have similar backgrounds of once being IDPs and have gone through difficult times trying to rebuild their livelihoods and reconstruct communities, they can be in each other’s shoes. With many participants nodding a lot and asking more questions than usual, I sensed that this exchange program was more participant-friendly as the content was easier to understand and knowledge delivered was more relevant to what they need to most.
We were able to receive comments like,
“The program was well organized and useful.”
“My concerns decreased and I have more motivation to manage the ACS.”
“Easy to understand.”
“I learned the most that teamwork and perseverance are important to succeed.”

Also, for future cooperation, we received responses that ACS members are willing to exchange end-products, such as nursery plants and composts as well as making suggestion and advices when encountering issues.

【Group photo of all ACS members at the end of the Exchange Program】
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In the ongoing project, ACS members in Mullaitivu District will manage Plant Nursery Centers and members in Kilinochchi District will manage a Grinding Food Center. We think that this exchange program laid a foundation for further networking and cooperation, and expect that the tips shared will contribute to sustainable management and development of all Agricultural Cooperative Societies.

Arisa Nishida
Program Officer




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February 19, 2015 in Sri Lanka |