Thursday, September 21, 2017

DOF to start unions to alleviate poverty

Rural fishing communities are being encouraged to fish in groups and form unions by the Department of Fisheries, under the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries.

This would allow the department to provide loans to assist the industry and its stakeholders to improve quality control and market access, a department official said at the weekly Myanmar Fisheries Federation (MFF) meeting in Yangon on May 3.

“This measure is intended to improve living standards within village-level fishing communities and reduce poverty,” said U Khin Ko Lay, the department’s director general.

“We will start forming village-level fishing unions as soon as possible at Shwebo district in Sagaing Region, which has more than 10,000 fishing workers. We will not force anybody to join a union but so far 500 fishermen from six villages have expressed interest in joining,” he said.

U Khin Ko Lay said he planned to call a meeting with MFF officials to discuss the plan to form unions.

“We will start forming fishing unions in Shwebo district as soon as we’ve met with MFF officials and will extend the plan countrywide if it’s successful,” U Khin Ko Lay said.

U Soe Win, an MFF patron, agreed the formation of fishing unions could be an effective way to address grass roots poverty, adding that it was a good sign that the government was even using the word “poverty” to describe the problem.

“As the initial aims of the fishing unions include group fishing and small loans programs, this will be quite like a cooperative system.

“We have failed in the past to develop proper cooperatives and this is something we need to consider when we move ahead with the forming of unions,” U Soe Win said.

To promote the fisheries sector in Myanmar, the Fisheries Scholars Association was first organised in 1989 before becoming the Myanmar Fisheries Association in 1994 and the Myanmar Fisheries Federation in 1998.

However, the federation does not include small-scale operators and is mainly composed of the owners of medium- or large-scale businesses.

As a result, the issues affecting village-level fishermen are rarely heard during meetings.