Sri Lanka has announced its first ever Co-operatives Week, recognising the work done by co-ops in building up the country’s economy.
In an address to officials, minister of industry and commerce Rishad Bathiudeen paid tribute to the importance of co-ops.
“Our co-op sector is much more important than any of us understand,” said Mr Bathiudeen. “Sri Lanka’s agricultural base of the past helped the movement to take off.”
Co-operatives Week was launched at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall, Colombo, Sri Lanka. The week is timed to lead up International Co-operatives Day on 2 July – the annual celebration of the co-operative movement across the world.
Mr Bathiudeen continued: “Even in today’s market economy, its presence in the rural sector is strong. More than 50% of non-multi-purpose cooperative purchases in Sri Lanka are purchases from farmer and livestock sectors, at Rs 3,100m (£14.2m). These are the reasons why I presented a cabinet paper on 14 June to celebrate International Co-operatives Day.”
The roots of the co-operative movement can be traced back to 1904 in a small village of Menikhinna and the foundation of the Menikhinna Credit Society. The first co-operative law was enacted in 1911.
Prior to Sri Lanka’s civil war, which began in 1983, the co-operative movement had been very strong. The country was further hit by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. The civil war ended in 2009 and attempts continue to build the sector back up. The election of a moderate president Maithripala Sirisena in January 2015 saw new measures passed, including those aimed at developing co-operatives.
Today, there are more than 14,000 co-operatives across Sri Lanka’s villages, towns and cities.
The 2016 International Day of Co-operatives (or Coopsday) is built around the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and themed ‘Co-operatives: The power to act for a sustainable future’.