On 2 April Nepal celebrated its annual National Co-operative Day, recognising the three million people affiliated with over 19,000 co-operatives around the country.
The day has been observed every year since 1957, commemorating what is considered to be the launch of co-operatives in Nepal – the establishment of a Bakhanpur credit co-operative organisation.
Nepal has a long culture of informal community co-operatives, particularly in savings and credit associations (known as dhikuti) and in agriculture.
One of the largest, the Nepal Federation of Savings and Credit Cooperative Unions (NEFSCUN), develops and promotes its members, many of which are farmers. NEFSCUN provides members with fertiliser, seeds, and technical and marketing services.
The first Co-operative Act was enacted by the government in 1960, followed by the Agricultural Co-operative Act. Co-operatives continued to grow during the 60s and 70s and in 1985 the Co-operative Act was amended for the third time to give the government more control. NEFSCUN was formed in 1988 to act as an apex body for the savings and credit movement which had spread through the country.
Today the co-operative sector is well-established as one of the three pillars for national development. Co-op societies operate across sectors as diverse as saving and credit, arts and crafts, dairy, agriculture, bee-keeping and energy.