12 / 1993
The retail fish traders in Sri Lanka who purchase fish, from a central market place, carry them in a wooden or a galvanized container tied on to a motor bicycle or a push cycle and travel to distant villages in search of their potential buyers. They are a group of people socially, economically and politically marginalized in their own society although they are not insignificant considering they are self employed as well as their contribution to the country’s economy. The number of retail fish traders operating in the district of Colombo Sri Lanka amounts to more than 6000 while in the adjoining district namely the Gampaha district the number of such retail fish traders exceeds 800 individuals.
As a result of an indepth research study carried out by IRED:Asia over a period of one year with the financial support and collaboration from the Bay of Bengal Programme of FAO, it was found that the retail traders in Sri Lanka are a marginalized group scattered over a wide geographical area thus having the difficulty of bringing them to any form of collectivity. This results in a lack of any political identitiy either to enhance their bargaining power with institutions or individuals which affect their socio economic lives. Nor can they influence any decision making entities. Therefore it was shown that strengthening of the institutional capacities of the traders providing them with a political identity and strengthening their economic power are the major requirements to improve the quality of life of these traders.
As a result of the initiative taken by IREd:Asia a Cooperative Association of Retail fish Traders has been established for thr first time in Sri Lanka in August 1993. A savings and Credit Scheme was also introduced to the Association and the small daily savings of the traders over a period of one month amounted to a little less than US$1,000/=. for the proper coordination of the members of the Association the membership is geographically clustered and each cluster is looked after by a member of the Executive Committee of the association. A youth from the community itself has been identified by the Association to visit the fish market every morning and collect the daily savings of the traders. The savings thus collected are now deposited in the Commercial Bank of Sri Lanka and the Association has designed three credit schemes for these traders, namely the credit for,
(a)purchase of vehicles (motor bicycles or push cycles)
(b)purchase of fish
(c)recovery of past debts.
This association is now being offered financial support for credit by other NGOs as well.
WEERACKODY, Chamindra, IRED ASIAN REGIONAL OFFICE
IRED Asie (Development Support Service) - 562/3 Nawala Road - Rajagiriya - Sri Lanka Tel : 94 1 695 481 - Fax : 94 1 - 688 368