This past week saw the 4th anniversary of the World Fisheries Co-operative Day, launched in 2011 to recognise the substantial contributions that co-operatives have made to the livelihoods of fishermen and -women around the globe.
I had the privilege of being in New Delhi, India that day, delivering the Vaikunthbhai Mehta Memorial Lecture, honouring the memory and work of the doyen of the Indian co-operative movement, who passed away in 1964. Representatives of Fishcopfed, the National Federation of Fishermen’s Cooperatives, were on-hand and participated in the recognition of Fisheries Co-operative Day. Fishcopfed Chairman Prakash Lonore spoke, joined by Managing Director B.K. Mishra.
Fishcopfed itself is an impressive story. As the national apex body for Indian fishery co-operatives, it works to improve their welfare and better their working conditions. Its accident insurance scheme provides around-the-clock coverage for those in this very hazardous profession. It provides training to enhance fish production while promoting aquaculture. Its chain of Retail Fish Centres throughout India is one of its various efforts to ensure fish marketing that rebounds to the benefit of the fishers. It also promotes the export of fish and fish products.
Much of the leadership in this important economic sector has come through the International Co-operative Alliance’s fisheries sectoral organisation, known as IFCO (International Fisheries Co-operatives Organisation). Its current Chairman, Lee Jong Koo, has led the way, setting the example for others through the organisation he leads full-time: the Korea National Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives (KFNC).
There is today a global crisis in the fishery food supply, exacerbated by climate change and global warming. The Alliance is a committed partner of the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations in its efforts to address this situation, which cries out for responsible global policy.
As in so many economic sectors, co-operatives are at the forefront of adopting sustainable practices while ensuring the livelihood of those working in this field, who are among some of the poorest people in the world. It’s a privilege to salute them and their co-operatives on this day in particular.