Mkanako Cooking Oil Cooperative
MKANAKO COOPERATIVE (CHIMPHONDE – KAPITA REGION)
Empower Malawi has been working with villages in the Kapita region for 5 years. This has involved partnership across a range of developmental projects ranging from access to finance through a community bank, the construction of a community centre, the establishment of a preschool, facilitating access to solar lighting and permaculture practices at the local primary school.
The population of Kapita is approximately 10,000. Kapita has 3 areas that fall under Group Village Headman Makhuwira. The areas are Chimphonde, Kaulasisi and Kapita itself. Mkanako Village is in Chimphonde area, about 10 kilometres from Kapita primary school. The population of Mkanako Village is approximately 350 people. The place is very resource rich with different types of crops but the main crops are maize, groundnuts and sunflower. The people of Mkanako village are very united and committed to developing themselves through self-help initiatives.
Part of Mkanako village showing the Village Headman’s house
It all started with Empower Malawi in partnership with local enterprise development organisation BEED conducting an accredited business development program for local entrepreneurs. These training clinics, of which a business plan was a key output, inspired many local ideas at varying scales (individual, group, village). It was at this stage that all members from Mkanako decided to work together to develop a business plan with a common goal, that of establishing a cooking oil factory. The cooking oil factory was planned to be located right in their village. With Empower Malawi’s guidance and support, the cooperative was formed with 70 members. However, the capital-intensive nature of the business (equipment) meant that the cooperative needed support to get their business up and running.
Participants during the business training facilitated by BEED and Empower Malawi
The cooperative members requested support from Empower Malawi in the form of capital to purchase the cooking oil refinery machine. Empower Malawi, after evaluating the business plan, concluded that the plan had a lot of potential and was confident that members could effectively run the cooperative if assisted with the cost of machinery and provided ongoing guidance within our 5-year framework.
Empower Malawi then submitted a proposal to the American Embassy in Lilongwe under the Ambassador’s Self Help Fund Small Grants in 2014. In 2016, the proposal was finally approved and Mkanako Cooperative was granted funds to buy equipment for the cooking oil production. A complete set of machinery – from presser to filter and generators were purchased and delivered to Mkanako Village. The machinery was installed by a technician from the supplier and the requisite training was conducted. Members of Mkanako Cooperative received further training from the Department of Cooperatives under the Ministry of Trade. An application to get a Cooperative Certificate was made and is currently awaiting approval from the Registrar of Cooperatives.
The cooking oil production machine installed in Mkanako village
Currently, the cooperative comprises over 125 members, of which 55 are women. The machine is expected to produce over 100 litres of cooking oil a day at its peak. To ensure sustainability of the business, the cooperative members grow their own groundnuts and plan to buy some from its members and non-members. Thereby extending the impact of this initiative to neighbouring villages in the Kapita region.
The members contributed all the bricks, labour and constructed the factory building. They did this using their own resources and labour. Over the previous agricultural season, the cooperative loan groundnuts seed to its members under an agreement that each person will pay back an agreed quantity of ground nuts and sell the excess to the cooperative.
At present, the cooperative is looking for other stakeholders to support them with cash capital in form of loan so that they can purchase ground nuts from farmers so that their production schedule is not affected by a lack of raw materials along the way. To this end, the cooperative is working with its sister organisation, the Kapita COMSIP (a financial cooperative) and a larger apex cooperative for access to credit. The cooperative is confident of using these funds in a transparent and accountable manner to grow their cooperative and become self-sufficient. We at Empower Malawi are proud of the distance this cooperative has travelled over the last few years. The people of Mkanako are determined and are now on the cusp of producing their first batch of cooking oil, a first for this rural region. It is a testament to what is possible with the right resources, opportunities and guidance.