The origins of world cooperative movements stretch back as far as 1498 when the Shore Porters Society was established in Aberdeen. More recently the Fenwick Weavers Society, founded in 1769 in East Ayrshire, was the first recorded consumer cooperative. This venerable tradition has since worked its way around the world and is alive in modern Rwanda.
At Rutonde where our porridge project has been running for the past five years, preparations are being made for the project to move on to another parish. In its place a cooperative has been formed among the local women. With the income the women have been able to earn from the project, savings have been put away and a bank account has been opened.
This morning, two of the women from the cooperative came to discuss moving on to the next phase, starting up a sewing and craft business. This may be the middle of Africa and the meeting held outside in 30 degrees of equatorial heat, but the discussion was no different to that in any startup business anywhere - how to calculate profit and how to extract it.
Those familiar with management accounting will have come across the concept of standard costing. Forget cloud accounting systems. At the equator this is done on half a page at the back of a notebook. Three handbags from a length of cloth, some thread and foam padding and the answer is RWF2,900. That is something over £2.60 to the rest of us.The cooperative ladies understand growing the business so the woman who makes each bag will get 75% when the bag is sold and a dividend later when the committee decide there is enough surplus accumulated to hand out.
Without any sewing machines, this business is going nowhere so it is fortunate that Loanhead Church have put up some money to set up a small workshop. Next Wednesday will be an exciting day. Zacharie, the church Pastor, has volunteered his vehicle, we are meeting the ladies in town and we are going shopping for three sewing machines and a cutting table.
Watch this space.