The work put in by cooperatives on the island has not gone unnoticed by Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce, Dwight Sutherland.
This was emphasized last Sunday as he delivered brief remarks at St. George Parish Church, in recognition of International Day of Cooperatives, better known as “Coops Day”, and commemorated on July 6.
The theme for this year’s celebration is COOPS 4 DECENT WORK, in support of the United Nations General Assembly Sustainable Development Goal Number 8 – “inclusive development and decent work”.
Pointing out that the cooperative society, domestically and globally, acted as a conduit to enhance sustainable community development, Minister Sutherland said: “The benefits of cooperatives extend across all boundaries – whether it be tackling poverty, making finance affordable, developing a cadre of experts locally and internationally, empowering vulnerable groups, especially women, and developing cooperative networks, among others.”
All of this, he added, was with one common goal in mind – changing the lives of members, their communities, and the world.
Noting that one of the most observed successes of cooperation in motion in Barbados was seen in financial cooperatives, the Commerce Minister stressed: “We are all too familiar with these institutions, which over time have amassed assets in excess of $2.4 billion, employing over 500 persons, and accounting for an estimated 205,800 membership base. Concurrently, the non-financial cooperatives have accrued assets estimated at $10 million,and enjoy a membership of approximately 830 persons.
While also acknowledging the cooperative movement enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship with the St. George Parish Church, the Minister stated: “Moreover, and quite fitting for this occasion, is that just a stone’s throw away from where we meet to commune today, is the St. George Farmers’ Marketing Cooperative Society Limited, which bears testament to the achievements of a well-functioning and organized cooperative structure.
“With its establishment almost three and a half decades ago, this society nestled in Barbados’ rich agricultural belt, tucked away within the undulating and pristine valley of St. George, has been able to supply fresh produce to its immediate community, whilst also attracting a sundry of patrons from across the island.”
The island’s cooperatives were also said to mirror those globally, as they were democratic, people-centred, value-driven and locally-controlled organizations that foster social inclusion.
And, Mr. Sutherland added: “The unique business structure brings with it strength, organization and solidarity to the movement. Moreover, cooperatives have been highly effective in enabling many Barbadians to gain a voice and mobilize themselves to pursue mutual economic interests and to secure social protection.
“Across the world, indigenous people, refugees, migrants, women in rural and urban areas, unemployed persons, the elderly and the disabled have all found possibilities for social and economic participation and advancement through cooperative action and enterprise. These unique and enabling features in and of themselves allow the cooperative mechanism to be one of the main engines of economic growth in any economy.”
Globally, there are approximately three million registered cooperative societies, with a membership of over 1.2 billion, employing in excess of over 280 million people.
Research indicates that approximately more than half of the world’s population in some measure benefits from these societies. Cooperatives also include a diversity of sectors such as agriculture, finance, sports, consumer, insurance, transport and health.