Mollie Moisan: 2016 Volunteer of the Year Award Nominee
Mollie Moisan is the former Director of Cooperative Development at Pachamama Coffee Cooperative, a third tier co-op owned by five member coffee co-op associations in Nicaragua, Peru, Mexico, Guatemala, and Ethiopia. After her extensive experiences working with co-ops, Mollie is a firm believer in the tremendous potential of the cooperative business model to help smallholder farmers achieve economic growth and security. While Mollie had very little time off from her job at Pachamama, she was able to volunteer with NCBA CLUSA’s Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program twice. She volunteered in Senegal in August 2015, and in March 2016 she volunteered in Zambia through NCBA CLUSA’s SPSP under VEGA.
In Zambia, Mollie worked with Chipata District Farmers Association (CDFA) and three of its member cooperatives, including Chipata Farmers Cooperative (CFC)—which NCBA CLUSA and CDFA helped establish in 2012 during another volunteer’s assignment—Feni Multipurpose Cooperative Society, and Mwende Cooperative. Mollie’s trainings focused on “Co-op 101” basics like the seven cooperative principles, the differences between the cooperative business model and other businesses, cooperative governance and board roles and responsibilities, building membership engagement, mapping different types of cooperatives locally and globally, and brainstorming how to support the social and economic goals of the cooperative. Including examples of her work with Pachamama, Mollie said the farmers were excited to learn how cooperatives in other countries are improving their members’ lives.
In addition to facilitating the trainings that were part of her assignment scope of work, Mollie went above and beyond by helping CFC start their own bank account. Program Coordinator Alex Hansingo drove around with Mollie all day visiting various CFC leaders to get the paperwork filled out, and after being formed in 2012, the cooperative now finally has their own bank account and full autonomy over their finances.
Cooperatives are a way of life for Mollie, and she was so impressed with Feni Multipurpose Cooperative that she decided to become a member. Mollie used all of the local currency she had on hand to pay for her membership.
Mollie’s commitment to the F2F Program extends beyond conducting assignments. In June 2016, Mollie participated in a F2F panel discussion at NCBA CLUSA’s Consumer Cooperative Management Association (CCMA) conference in Massachusetts. The session, “A More Inclusive Principle 6: Cooperation Among Cooperatives Across Borders” highlighted the F2F Program as an effective way for cooperatives in the US to support cooperatives in developing countries and really live out Principle 6 of the 7 internationally recognized cooperative principles: cooperation among cooperatives. Since the conference, several CCMA attendees have emailed NCBA CLUSA staff about participating in the F2F program.
The best part of the F2F Program is that it has positive impacts on beneficiaries and the volunteers. Mollie’s F2F experiences of working with farmers on the ground impacted her recent decision to take a new job where she’ll be working directly with coffee cooperatives in Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda.
This article was originally written by NCBA CLUSA.