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Irish Farmers: The Silent Heroes

Unknown to most Irish farmers, The Irish Foundation for Co-operative Development (IFCD) has been working on their behalf throughout East Africa for the past 35 years.  The Foundation was started by the farmer members of the Board of the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) in 1981. The view then and the view now is that the experience of Irish farmers in using the co-operative method of business organisation has much to commend it to the many farmer smallholders in developing economies.  Much of the work of the Foundation has involved providing co-operative expertise and capital to small scale micro-co-operatives in countries such as Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.  This work is largely funded from Irish co-operative resources which in essence is Irish farmers contributing to the co-operative development of their East African fellow farmers.  Most Irish farmers do not realise that the co-operatives of which they are members, have been contributing small amounts of money to provide life changing support to co-operatives in poorer developing countries.

The current IFCD development programme centres on small scale co-operative and rural development projects.  The focus is on value addition projects such as milk storage and chilling, water purification and bottling, agro-forestry, honey processing, herbal teas for export, saving and credit co-operatives, eco-tourism, sun flower pressing and green vegetable marketing to name but a few.  These once off supports make life changing differences to families, communities and especially children. Poor farmers get the opportunity to produce, store, process and market their scarce produce and keep the profits in their villages.

The support is targeted at small registered co-operatives that will make the biggest differences locally.  Only co-operatives that have the potential to be part of the IFCD programme and enhance life in rural disadvantaged areas are considered.  In the past three years, IFCD have been working with and funded seven development projects with an overall investment of €151,890. The bulk of this funding has come from member co-operatives of ICOS.  IFCD invites co-operative boards each year to make a small contribution on behalf of their farmer members.  It is open to each co-operative to determine the appropriate contribution.

IFCD want farmer members of co-ops to know what they are achieving.  They have been heroes to many communities.  We are continually asked by the people who lives they have changed to thank those people in Ireland.  Often, we are asked why are they so generous to people they don’t know?

IFCD is dependent on the support given to us via co-operatives by Irish farmers, for East African farmers trying to organise to add value to their meagre production Irish farmers are their ‘Silent Heroes.’

If you would like to find out more about IFCD’s work contact IFCD at Tel: +353 1 6764783, email: tom.millane@icos.ie or skype: mandeleo

By Tom Millane