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Making a difference - Rwanda and Gay Lea

Gay Lea Foods Co-operative embraces co-op principle no. 6 "co-operation among co-operatives" by offering assistance to 1000s of farmers in Rwanda
Co-operation among co-operatives.  It’s the sixth guiding principle of co-operatives and the principle that enables co-ops to put their values into practice on a local, regional and even a global scale.

The relationship between Gay Lea Foods Co-operative and CCA’s Rwanda Co-operative Agriculture Growth project is an excellent example of putting this principle into action.  Through Gay Lea’s support of the Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada (CDF) they provide direct assistance to many thousands of farmers in Rwanda who are moving towards nutritional self-sufficiency through their own co-operatives. 

Gay Lea President and CEO Michael Barrett explains the importance of Gay Lea’s global outreach as  “Part of the seven co-operative principles Gay Lea Foods is committed to ensuring that the co-operative model is utilised to ‎restore societies and provide well being to global citizens.”  

Gay Lea’s active practice of principle six does not stop there however as the co-operative makes a point of encouraging staff to support this development work, a mission employees have readily embraced through regular fundraising events that bring everyone together in support of worthy causes.  Rachel Caldera, HR Manager, explains that “at Gay Lea, our employees generously donate their hard-earned dollars to CDF because they know that their contributions actually make a world of difference to others.” 

With the Rwanda project in its fourth year, Gay Lea donations to CDF are literally transforming the lives and livelihoods of more than 17,000 farm families in Rwanda.  Their growing co-operatives are bringing life-changing benefits to more and more families.     
Thanks to improved yields and marketing practices, co-op farmers and their families can now afford to eat two meals a day 
Thanks to improved yields and marketing practices, co-op farmers and their families can now afford to eat two meals a day. 

CCA and CDF Executive Director Mike Casey says these important strides simply could not happen without the involvement of Gay Lea Foods and their employees. “Through their generosity and support, Gay Lea and their many employees have helped improve the lives of more than 100,000 people in Rwanda. Their generosity and efforts to help build a better world are truly inspiring.”

Enabling staff to take time away from their busy jobs and see firsthand how the co-operative model works in developing countries is another way Gay Lea supports the work of CDF and CCA.   Rachel Caldera visited a CCA project in Sri Lanka in 2011 and Luis Garcia, Vice President Supply Chain, recently went on a study tour to Peru to see how the financial and technical support given to CDF and CCA is changing lives. 

Luis’ belief in the power of co-operatives was reinforced by what he saw.  “I had the opportunity to visit a co-operative in Peru with CDF and their partner Norandino, and witnessed how our donations have helped farmers build a sustainable co-operative model that not only has improved the quality of life for its members, but also of their communities.”

As Michael Barrett sums it up, “for Gay Lea, co-operation among
co-operatives is foundational, to contribute is to make a difference and to make a difference is to give.”  


You can support this work too and help make a difference.


Discover how Canadian co-operators are making a difference with CCA and CDF in the 
2016 Gratitude Report