Malpe Fisherwomen’s Cooperative Society in Karnataka
M. Gracy, September 2001
09 / 2001
The Malpe Fisher women’s Cooperative Society in Karnataka, India, was formed in 1977 to seek institutional support for fisherwomen mainly involved in drying fish. Initially the cooperative used to operate from a small rented room, with a share capital of Rs.35000 from the state government and of Rs.17000 from the women themselves. Now it has its own building.
Initially, the cooperative had a membership of 276. At present the number has increased to 800. At least 95 per cent of the fisherwomen of Malpe are members of this cooperative. The membership fee is Rs.100.
The cooperative has a nine-member committee of which seven are elected and two are official representatives from the Government Fisheries Department. The term of office of the committee is three years. The board meets once a month and a General Body meeting is held once a year. The cooperative focuses on economic activities. It earns a profit of at least Rs.50000 a year.
The society is involved in the salt business, transportation, deposit mobilization and credit schemes. It also leases land to the women for drying fish. It imports salt from Mangalore at Rs.42 per bag of 50kg, and sells it to the women at Rs.50 per bag for their salting and drying fish business. The price includes cost of transportation, loading, unloading and godown rent. There is a profit of Rs.2.50 per bag. Salt is given on credit during the high season and the money is recovered during the off-season. Over 14,000 bags of salt are sold every year. However, with government pressure to use iodized salt increasing, the women feel that their work will be affected in the future.
The society has acquired two vans-one from the National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC) and the other from the Central Social Welfare Board, both at a 50 per cent subsidy. The NCDC van required frequent repairs, so they sold it and paid off the full loan amount. The other van is used for taking women and their fish to and from the markets, and from the fish landing area to fish drying area. It helps carry salt as well. Sometimes they hire it out to the general public as well. The transport rates vary according to the quantity carried and the distance traveled.
The cooperative receives deposits from its members with the aim of encouraging the habit of savings amongst the women. This is very difficult because of very low income generated by fish-related activities. Yet it is able to generate Rs.20000 every year from its members. They also have a loan system whereby loans are given for fish-related activities. It is usually given for a period of one year and a committee has to approve of the borrower. The maximum amount is Rs.5000 and the annual rate of interest is 18per cent. The loan repayment is by monthly installments although the installment amount varies on the loan amount taken. Loans amounting to Rs.100000 have already been given till now.
The cooperative also leases land. It has leased four acres of land from the port authorities since 1992. The leased area is again sub-leased out to the cooperative members at Rs.1.50 per sq m for drying fish
The cooperative has four staff members and some committee members. The net profit is divided amongst the following heads- reserve fund, honorarium to board members, dividends for members, building fund, common fund, gratuity fund, sinking fund and share capital reduction.
The cooperative has won some national awards for high productivity and for good work over the years. One was from The National Federation of Fishermen’s Cooperative Ltd. in 1986 and the other one was a national award for high productivity. The third was also from the State Government in 1994 for the good work being done by the cooperative.
The work of the Malpe cooperative in protecting the economic interests of women fishworkers has indeed been remarkable. The success of the cooperative is a tribute to all the hard work put in by the committee and other members of the cooperative. In fact, there are several strong cooperative in the fisheries sector in Maharashtra. This is also a reflection of the support and guidance given by the state government. Other Indian states would do well to learn from the examples of fisheries cooperatives in Maharashtra. At the same time it would be worth exploring how the economic empowerment of women members could go hand in hand with their political empowerment.
Gracy, M., International Collective in Support of Fishworkers, Women in Fisheries Series : Women First, Report of the Women in Fisheries Programme of ICSF in India, International Collective in. Samudra Dossier Series, 1996 (India), 1, 27-3
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