Arriving at the Rice Farmers Processing Factory this morning made my heart smile. More than 150 farmers had already arrived and were seated in rows of plastic chairs under an enormous tree. On two side were canopies and chairs set up, which is where sat down with our partners from Development Monitors, the cooperative board and local politicians. Music was literally blasting from large speakers. The truck that Pilot Light supplied for the transport of rice to the factory from the farms was shuttling back and forth to pick up cooperative members deep into the villages to insure 100% attendance at this General Assembly meeting and handover of the factory to the farmers.
The ability to process and sell rice in bulk insures a higher income for cooperative members, who also own shares in the business of the factory. Non-members can also use this factory for added income at a higher price than members and rice by products can be used for animal feed and fertilizer.
There was a brief meeting with the board inside of the factory and then the formal general meeting outside with around 350 farmers where we officially signed the papers to transfer ownership to the cooperative. There were several speakers, including a top local politician who emphasized the need for men to work as hard as women and for the farmers to take ownership seriously. He warned them not to let the machines deteriorate. The farmers take great joy and pride in the processing machine.
All in all, it was a wonderful day celebrating, giving and receiving thanks, enjoying great entertainment and witnessing the beginning of what I hope will be a pivotal day for the cooperative members.