Co-operatives are particularly well-suited as a business model in smaller communities where aquaculture or fisheries are taking place, so that the maximum number of residents in those communities can benefit.
The advantages of such organizations, when well-structured and managed, are that they respond to members’ needs, focusing on enhancing production and incomes of members, through innovation, best practices and market access.
Most readers will be familiar with credit unions (financial co-operatives) or the Canadian prairie grain and producer co-operatives, or dairy co-operatives, all successful in their own right.
On the fisheries and aquaculture side of things, there are quite a few successful co-operatives and associations that represent the members’ interests, and work for each of the members. For example, the Petty Harbour Fisherman’s Co-operative Society and the Fogo Island Co-operative Society and the Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association.
The commonality among these groups is that they work on behalf of all members, the shareholders, and each member has an equal voice in the operations, plans, as well as sharing in the successes by increasing their incomes in related businesses.
The Marine Institute’s School of Fisheries has been engaged in technical and training support for aquaculture producers and fishery co-operatives for decades. In Newfoundland and Labrador, we work closely with the existing co-operatives and farmer associations to support members in their R and D, training and innovation needs.
The MI’s School of Fisheries (SOF), through its international office, MI International (MII), has recently partnered with the Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada (CDF Canada) in a multi-year project called INVEST Co-op Indonesia, funded generously by the Government of Canada, Global Affairs Canada, Partnership Program.
The main outcome of the project is to improve the livelihoods and well-being of women and men small aquaculture producers through the integrated co-operative business model. The SOF is involved principally in a technical and training capacity, to provide seaweed, fish and shrimp farmers with best aquaculture practices training, farm innovations, R and D on improving farm production, outputs and products, and to assist in building capacity within Indonesia with our local implementing partner, KOSPERMINDO, a marketing, sales and processing co-operative.
Over the duration of the project, we are aiming to reach in excess of 10,000 small aquaculture producers located in four regions and eight communities in South Sulawesi, Indonesia. This island is the fourth largest among 17,000+ located in the archipelago and it is the principal centre of seaweed farming in Indonesia, and one of the largest production areas in the world for aquaculture and fisheries.
One of the innovations in the project has been to engage a local Indonesian student, Ms. Siti Darajat, to undertake the MSc Aquaculture program at Memorial under the supervision of Cyr Couturier, aquaculture expert and technical lead for the project. Ms. Darajat is conducting applied research on climate change adaptations for aquaculture farmers, seaweed farming best practices and improved methods of cultivation of shrimp, milkfish and seaweeds.
One of the highlights thus far involved a partner’s forum whereby Indonesian aquaculture co-ops were able to come to Canada to visit and learn from successful co-ops and small farm producers. We had the pleasure of visiting the Fogo Island Co-operative Society Ltd., the Petty Harbour Fisherman’s Co-operative Society Ltd., as well as shellfish aquaculture pioneer, Terry Mills of Norlantic Processors.
All have been operating for more than 30 years, bringing value to their communities and stakeholder members. This allowed our Indonesian partners to gain first-hand knowledge and experience from successful, member-driven fisheries and aquaculture organizations, and by doing so gave them a moral boost that they too, can do it. Farmers or fisheries organizations are always willing to share best practices with like-minded groups, for mutual benefit.
The project is progressing well and some of the early outcomes are being met after only one year of operation. The reader can look forward to future updates in a year or so on this exciting project.