The creation, development, and management of rural based cooperative societies. a case study of the Co-operative movement in the fishing industry of lake Victoria, Kenya.
Noberts, Awino M
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This study offers a contribution to the analysis of the role of rural-based co-operatives in developing rural areas. Using the fishing co-operatives and the newly introduced trading groups by small scale fish systems of Lake Victoria as an example, it assesses their viability as agents of poverty alleviation. The argument is that the people of the fishing regions of Lake Victoria are characterized by the vicious circle of poverty and the only way out is co-operation among various business people. Co-operation would act as a stimulant for scarce resource mobilization through pooling and borrowing of funds (saving and credit), group fund-raising, and group borrowings. The study begins by stressing that the Lake victoria as a natural resource in the region holds the key to the regions development. This is because the ecological and human factors of the region do not favor agriculture or any other gainful employment opportunities. But it is puzzling to note that despite engaging in fishing activities, there is stiil an apparent and persistent po~erty. A condition perpetuated by the following aspects of the fishing industry:- (a) Government policies towards lake resource exploitation are not protective towards the local small scale business people. (b) The bureaucratic, universal, and principles of Kenyan co-operatives practical relevance to the rural based co-operatives. This explains why urban-based saving and credit co-operatives rigid nature make them of little practical perform better than the rural co-operatives. (c) Business structure, conduct and performance in the industry favor large scale firms and frustrate small scale endeavors. The large scale business people do not originate or reside in the lake regions unlike the small scale business people. Benefits accruing from the industry therefore largely benefit areas from where the large scale traders originate. This inequality between the two sectors is caused by input and technological differences. The large scale sector uses modern-icing and freezing technology which is too expensive and complex for the local business people to adopt. The small scale sector on the other hand uses traditional smoking and competitive analyzing the we conclude sun-drying technology which cannot fit in the environment within which it operates. After comparative benefits of the two technologies, that the small scale sector is vital for the development of the region and that with simple changes,the traditional technology can be efficient enough to improve earnings from the industry. It is hence the most approprfate technology for the industry. Opponents of this appropriate technology (large scale firms), are egoistic, capitalists, well financed, strategically placed, and indirectly protected by Government officers. They are thus able to dominate and dictate terms of the industry at the expense of its potential beneficiaries who are financially poor, unknown and unorganized. They are conscious and disappointed about such inequality, willing but unable to individually correct the situation. The solutions to these problems lie with change. There should be change in participants attitudes towards business, change from sole holdings to group holdings, change in technology, change in structure of fishermen co-operatives, and change from lack of commitment to dedication towards group savings and team work. But social commitment and economic viability are only necessary but not sufficient conditions for such ideals. Performance of co-operatives are very much dependent on the political circumstances prevailing in that country and more particularly as they affect the area in question. Such reorganization should therefore be followed by relevant political will in the form of policy intervention to regulate and protect the small scale sector.