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The power of convergence has enabled Tawakal Grain Merchant traders reach greater heights. None of the 67 members visualized that they would be able to manage their business at international standards. However, under the Rural Commercialization (RuCom) intervention implemented by Farm Concern International (FCI) with funding from FAO, they have been able engage in cross-border trade and bulking, making sales worth thousands of dollars. This is was very commendable, coming from a previously war ravaged region in the Horn of Africa. Tawakal Grain Merchant Cooperative was established in May 2013 in Boroma town of Somaliland with 31 members. The members have now risen to 67.
The cooperative was formed to encourage traders to work together in order to increase their economies of scale. RuCom enhanced collective action through joint sourcing from various markets and also created market linkages within the districts of implementation.
The programme also targeted traders as some of the beneficiaries, with the aim of expanding market linkages for smallholder farmers.
The intervention incorporated an agricultural marketing dimension that focused on commercialization through capacity development and enhanced market information systems, complemented by FAO production -oriented interventions. It also focused on gender aspects in farming and trading communities through increased opportunities for women participation in the project’s activities and increased access to training as well as value addition skills. The trader association concentrated on common seasonal and off-season agricultural commodities i.e. peanuts, beans, maize, wheat, millet and sorghum, some of which are sourced from Ethiopia.
Through business development and marketing strategies training by FAO Somalia and FCI, the association identified the need to pull resources together which would address various challenges they were facing as individuals such as lack of working capital and emergency funds.
Accordingly, the association started a savings scheme through Dahabshil bank, with each member depositing USD 4 per month. The group now has more than USD 3,000 in their account. They have designed a cash receipt book for the members as well as individual Identity Cards that serve proof of membership. They have also managed to rent a storage room for bulk collection, negotiate and secure large business deals and establish trade relations with markets in Hargeisa, Burao, Ethiopia and Djibouti.
The trader association is currently networking with farmer associations in Ethiopia and Somaliland for sourcing. The association facilitates road taxation papers for Ethiopian trucks, enabling traders cross the Somaliland border without restrictions. In addition, the group has opened an office in Boroma town which will be used to hold meetings and daily operations.
Sacaada Dahir, one of the members, said that among the many benefits she received from this association, collaboration and coordination are key. “Previously, it was difficult to interact with people in groups, but now I have gained confidence to interact even with men, since I need their help to grow my business. “she said. As the group expands, the association seeks new market opportunities to exploit through partnerships with the private sector buyers. Among the challenges encountered by the traders are price fluctuations of traded commodities, a key limitation due to their reliance on Ethiopian cereals and grains. High costs of transportation and taxation have remained as adamant obstacles which the group intends to overcome by purchasing a vehicle for transportation.
FCI VISION :Commercialized smallholder communities with increased incomes for improved, stabilized & sustainable livelihoods in Africa and beyond.