Speaking on International Co-ops Day, Minister for Trade and Development, Gareth Thomas MP, welcomed the project, which will help 45,000 fishers and 80,000 traders who rely on fishing in Lake Victoria to make a living.
Previously, the fishers’ income was adversely affected by middlemen fixing prices. The new mobile phone service will bring an end to this by allowing them to receive real time information on the current selling price of fish.
It will also enable them to send texts to advise each other on which fishing sites to avoid and which are profitable. Most of the fishers are under 35 and the greater income and work available through this fund will lead to lifestyle changes making them less vulnerable to the effects of HIV and Aids.
This is one of a number of projects across nine countries to be launched recently by Co-op Africa, which has received £5 million funding from DFID to help communities to work together.
Other schemes to benefit from the funding are a co-operative soybean project in Kenya, set up to provide nutritional food to HIV patients, and a refuse collection scheme in Zambian markets which aims to reduce cases of diarrhoea in the area by 75 per cent by the end of this year.
Hailing the success of the project, Mr Thomas said: “In the current economic crisis, co-operatives around the world have a more important role than ever to play in helping to lift people out of poverty.
“That’s why I am delighted that, on International Co-operative’s Day, I can welcome positive early results of the new Co-op Africa scheme.
“This money will make a big difference to a number of community projects in developing countries where people are working in co-operatives to create innovative ways of making a decent living.
“For example, a newly launched mobile phone scheme allows fishermen and women to text each other to compare latest fish prices, thereby putting a stop to exploitation by middlemen who fix false prices.”
Dr Linda Shaw, from the Co-operatives for Development Programme based at the Co-operative College in Manchester, commented: “As values-based enterprises, co-operatives deliver real benefits not just for their members but also for the communities they work in.
“Co-op Africa is helping co-operatives across the continent develop and innovate so they can provide sustainable ways of tackling poverty. Values do make a difference!”