CCMA 2016 presentation proposals are due January 15

ccma 2016 500 fb39eccma 2016 500 fb39eNCBA CLUSA is seeking original presentations related to the tracks outlined within this Call for Presentations for the 2016 Consumer Cooperatives Management Association (CCMA) Conference, scheduled for June 9 – 11 in Western Massachusetts. Proposals are due by 11:59 p.m. EST on Friday, January 15, 2016 and should be submitted electronically via email to Sherry Hill at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Proposals submitted to other conferences (whether accepted or not) and sessions previously presented to CCMA audiences will not be considered. Content for this conference must be 100 percent original and created with CCMA 2016 attendees in mind.

As you prepare your proposal, consider the conference theme, positioning and target audiences described here. Tracks include 1.) Strategies for Outdistancing the Competition, 2.) Succession Planning and Leadership Development, 3.) 2020 and Beyond: New Approaches to Cooperation, 4.) Participatory Governance for Success, 5.) Financing the Co-op Future and 6.) Social, Economic and Racial Diversity. Please note that the topics listed within the six tracks are thematic examples only. These topics are intended to provide presentation candidates some focus with allowance for creativity. 

Participation as a presenter in CCMA 2016 is voluntary. In recognition of a presenter’s contribution of time and effort, one complimentary full-conference registration is awarded to presenters’ whose proposals are accepted. However, each presenter remains responsible for his or her own expenses (travel, lodging, etc.).

Click here to read the full Call for Presentations. 

NCBA CLUSA’s press conference kicking off 100 years of cooperation is a week away!

kickoff event 500 d92e9kickoff event 500 d92e9NCBA CLUSA is excited to spend 2016 highlighting the scope and impact of the cooperative economy in the U.S., and we hope you’ll come out and support your co-op community at our key launch event in Washington, D.C. next week as we celebrate 100 years of cooperatives building a better world.

Register now for free and join NCBA CLUSA, lawmakers and top co-op executives at the National Press Club on Wednesday, January 13, from 8:30 – 10 a.m., for a press conference announcing milestones and upcoming events.

During this event, NCBA CLUSA will formally launch the newly-formed bipartisan Congressional Cooperative Business Caucus. Caucus co-chairs Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) will each speak on how the cooperative business model can shape the future of American jobs, industry and the economy for the better.

Representatives from some of the nation’s leading cooperative business will be on hand to illustrate the importance and impact of cooperative businesses nationwide. Additionally, NCBA CLUSA will publicly release the results of a 2015 national survey measuring public opinion toward co-ops. NCBA CLUSA Interim CEO and President Judy Ziewacz will highlight the past, present and future of the cooperative business model and its vital contributions to job creation and sustainable development on both the national and global level.

We’ll also serve a special 100th anniversary roast of organic, co-op grown coffee roasted by NCBA CLUSA member Pachamama Coffee Cooperative. Pachamama’s Director of Outreach Mollie Moisan will be on hand to talk about ethically sourced co-op coffee and distribute samples of the NCBA CLUSA 100th anniversary roast.

Attendance is free, but we’d like to know who’s coming to our kickoff event. Please take a moment now to fill out this registration form.

Engage Cuba and NCBA CLUSA partner on U.S.-Cuban relations

engage cuba 500 2c33cengage cuba 500 2c33c[From left: NCBA CLUSA's VP of Advocacy Alan Knapp, COO of International Development Amy Coughenour and Program Associate Marcus Laws at the newly-reopened Cuban Embassy for an Engage Cuba event marking a year since President Obama’s historic policy shift. NCBA CLUSA joins a growing list of trade organizations and associations partnering with Engage Cuba, a working coalition on U.S.–Cuba policy.

The partnership with Engage Cuba rallies trade associations, non-profit groups and concerned citizens for the purpose of supporting the ongoing U.S.–Cuba normalization process and enacting legislation to reform U.S. travel and trade restrictions with Cuba.

With expertise on the benefits of the cooperative business model and leadership of the U.S.-Cuba Cooperative Working Group (USCCWG), NCBA CLUSA is partnering with Engage Cuba to support the emerging cooperative sector and economy in Cuba. The Working Group’s mission is to promote mutually beneficial engagement between the U.S. and Cuba’s cooperative sectors, in an effort to promote the ongoing success of strong and vibrant cooperatives in both countries.

“We believe that working in partnership with Engage Cuba will strengthen all of our efforts to remove barriers to trade and other partnerships with our Cuban counterparts,” said Amy Coughenour Betancourt, Chief Operating Officer of NCBA CLUSA and head of the USCCWG. “Cuban cooperatives are interested in improving their businesses, creating jobs, and opening up markets on the island and with the U.S. We are here to support that.”

Attending the Engage Cuba event marking a year since President Obama’s historical policy shift at the newly reopened Cuban Embassy, NCBA CLUSA was able to meet with Cuban diplomats, including Deputy Chief of Mission, Juan Lamigueiro, opening doors to engage government institutions in cooperative workshops and events in both the U.S. and Cuba. NCBA CLUSA, through the USCCWG, works with partners at all levels from government to advocacy organizations like Engage Cuba to organizations on the ground in Cuba like SCENIUS, a financial services cooperative, in an effort to advance exchanges between the U.S. and Cuban cooperative sectors.

Cooperatives are central to Cuba’s changing economic model. The hand-over of state-run businesses to cooperative ownership could result in 20 – 30 percent of Cuba’s workers being actively involved in cooperatives, including over 8,000 restaurants to be operated as worker-owned cooperatives. By 2017, the Cuban government expects to there to be approximately 10,000 cooperatives.

The USCCWG aims to support the emerging Cuban cooperative community as the country opens to more trade. The group is also engaging the U.S. cooperative community in mutually beneficial commercial and technical exchanges that will strengthen cooperative management, governance, efficiency, and sustainability.

NCBA CLUSA signs MOU with Cuban cooperative to advance the sector

Cuba SCENIUS MOU 0dd80Cuba SCENIUS MOU 0dd80Amy Coughenour Betancourt, NCBA CLUSA, and Ing. Luis Dueñas Casal, SCENIUS, hold their signed agreementAs part of its work to link and promote U.S. and Cuban cooperative businesses, NCBA CLUSA recently signed an historic agreement with SCENIUS, a Cuban non-agricultural professional services cooperative.

“This first formal agreement with a Cuban partner is an important step in bringing the U.S. and Cuban cooperative communities together,” said Amy Coughenour Betancourt, Chief Operating Officer for International Programs. “SCENIUS is taking real leadership in promoting and supporting cooperatives in Cuba, and will help to support our mutual interest in fostering cooperative growth and exchanges between our two countries.”

On behalf of NCBA CLUSA’s U.S.-Cuba Cooperative Working Group project, Amy Coughenour Bentancourt signed the MOU with Ing. Luis Alberto Dueñas Casal, President and CEO of SCENIUS, during his trip to Washington, D.C. in late November.

As the U.S. and Cuba begin to open relations, the U.S.-Cuba Cooperative Working Group aims to foster collaboration, strengthen the cooperative movement in both countries and open formal relations with Cuban institutions that support cooperatives. This particular agreement with SCENIUS will formalize support and collaboration on workshops, cooperative events, multi-sector exchange trips and other joint activities.

“We are excited to work with NCBA CLUSA in support of the Cuban cooperative sector, and look forward to facilitating even more partnerships with U.S. cooperatives,” said Dueñas Casal.

Since July 2014, the U.S.-Cuba Cooperative Working Group has conducted two exchange trips of U.S. and Cuban cooperative leaders, one to Washington, D.C. and one to Cuba, issued a report on trip findings and delivered a formal presentation to Cuban academics and leading associations. NCBA CLUSA and its Cuban counterparts have conducted planning meetings in Cuba and Washington, and NCBA CLUSA recently sent an agro-ecology specialist to an agricultural conference in Havana hosted by ANAP, the Cuban National Association of Small Producers.

As U.S.-Cuban relations continue to strengthen, NCBA CLUSA and the U.S.-Cuba Cooperative Working Group is working to bolster greater engagement through support of the cooperative sectors.

(December 22, 2015)



NCBA CLUSA Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteers set to revolutionize critical peanut industry in Zambia

Aflatoxin  testing  Tail gate  lab 0ba72Aflatoxin testing Tail gate lab 0ba72Jock Brandis and Randy Shackleford test peanut aflatoxin levels in the tailgate of their truck in Chipata, ZambiaWhen NCBA CLUSA Farmer-to-Farmer volunteers Jock Brandis and Randy Shackelford arrived in Chipata, Zambia, they were supposed to teach local farmers simple methods to reduce harmful aflatoxin contamination in peanuts.

But they observed that most of the farmers were already practicing good post-harvest handling techniques to curb aflatoxin—drying their peanuts in the sun and storing them in elevated granaries to reduce moisture and ensure airflow.

So the pair of engineers-turned-international-development-mavericks started performing the very first “aflatoxin testing tailgates” in farmers’ fields and on store shelves with the mReader, a portable aflatoxin screener that was developed by Colorado-based Mobile Assay. What they discovered is that aflatoxin contamination is remarkably low in the fields but is highest in warehouses after peanut processing, confirming what Brandis and Shackelford already suspected: aflatoxin contamination isn’t the farmers’ fault.

Aflatoxin is a carcinogenic fungus that compromises the immune system, increasing vulnerability to malaria, TB, HIV and other life-threatening infections. Traditionally, testing involves mailing a peanut sample to a given country’s Ministry of Agriculture and waiting for a response, a process that in Zambia can take three to four weeks and rarely provides accurate readings.

The rapid diagnostic testing capability of the mReader is a dramatic breakthrough. During the “tailgate tests,” they grind up shelled peanuts in a blender powered by the cigarette lighter of a truck. Using a test strip modeled off immune testing performed in hospitals, a small sample of the blended peanuts is then inserted into a sensor connected to an iPad. Within fifteen minutes, an accurate reading appears.

“Suddenly, you can do a test anywhere, do it instantly and do it cheaply,” Brandis said during a lunch presentation at NCBA CLUSA headquarters earlier this month. He and Shackelford were in Washington, D.C. to accept their F2F Volunteer of the Year awards from the Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA).

“The portable screener is going to revolutionize the way aflatoxin is treated in Africa,” Brandis continued. It costs $5 to test a sample of peanuts and this is expected to ultimately go down to $1 or $2.

Brandis is the founder and research and development director of Full Belly Project, a nonprofit based in North Carolina that develops and distributes simple agricultural devices to improve life in rural communities. In addition to bringing Mobile Assay’s mReader to Africa, the team also introduced a hand-operated universal nut sheller during their recent Farmer-to-Farmer assignment in Zambia. With the sheller, a job that once took five people an entire day to do now takes just one person an hour.

While on assignment the team trained close to 400 farmers to use the sheller, 80 to 90 percent of whom are women, Shackelford said.

Still, without a solution to aflatoxin, the sheller was just “making it easier and more efficient for people to process toxic food and feed it to their children,” Brandis said.

That peanuts are a critical source of protein for rural farming communities in Zambia and throughout Africa makes aflatoxin “even more heartbreaking,” Brandis said. “It essentially condemns poor communities to under nutrition and stunting, especially among children, when the only protein source their parents can afford is toxic.”

When Shackelford returns to Zambia next year, he’ll take with him the Full Belly team’s latest invention: an ozone injector with 10 injector needles. The device is designed to insert into bags of peanuts and release ionized air that the team has discovered destroys the fungus that creates aflatoxin and blocks its reestablishment. Ionized air has a half-life of twenty minutes, at which point “you end up with air,” Brandis said. “This method avoids using any chemicals and leaves zero residue behind.” Ozone is commonly used in the United States for food safety and is FDA approved.

The device still needs to undergo extensive field-testing and the team is keen to manage expectations, but is also very optimistic. “The economics of getting past the brick wall with aflatoxin are nothing short of amazing,” Brandis said.

Brandis and Shackelford are also brainstorming ways to certify peanuts that have undergone treatment and are aflatoxin-free. The goal is to reopen markets for Zambian peanuts that were shut down because of high aflatoxin levels.

The team also believes the cooperative model is critical to spreading knowledge and technology in Africa. Brandis is a self-described “co-op kid” who grew up in rural Canada. “I’m so behind the cooperative philosophy, and I think nonprofit engineers like us are a perfect match for an organization like NCBA CLUSA,” Brandis said.

“Full Belly is a small organization and we depend on organizations like yours to do what we do. You get us into the field to test out our gizmos. Millions have already been spent to research the problem of aflatoxin, but because of Farmer-to-Farmer, we’re finally seeing a path to the future,” he added.

NCBA CLUSA’s USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer program sends American farmers and agribusiness professionals on 2 to 3 week agricultural development assignments, promoting sustainable economic growth and food security worldwide. Since 2010, NCBA CLUSA has deployed over 100 volunteers, providing more than three years of volunteer days and impacting thousands of smallholder farmers. NCBA CLUSA’s Zambia Farmer-to-Farmer project is being implemented under VEGA’s Special Program Support Project. For more details and to view current volunteer opportunities, click here.

(December 21, 2015)




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