Pulling in the Indigenous Fishery Cooperative Net: Fishing for Sustainable Livelihoods and Food Security in Garden Hill First Nation, Manitoba, Canada
AbstractCooperatives offer a vehicle for community development in less-developed countries as well as in economically challenged indigenous communities in developed countries. The authors engaged in a participatory community development research project involving students and faculty working with the Island Lake Opakitawek Cooperative (ILOC), a fishery cooperative in the remote community of Garden Hill First Nation (GHFN) in Manitoba, Canada. The project included four general components: (a) a sustainable livelihoods assessment; (b) a basic community food security assessment; (c) strategic business analysis; and (d) a business plan. The analysis shows that traditional foodways and livelihoods take advantage of prodigious natural capital, and that this indigenous cooperative offers potential to improve the fishers' quality of life. However, we also found that fishers' livelihoods and the ILOC were not sustainable without significant changes. Together, high operating expenses and low prices for whole fish are impoverishing fishers. Despite the poor return on investment, commercial fishing has continued for decades due to its connection with traditional hunting and fishing activities and the region's high unemployment level. Working collaboratively with the ILOC and GHFN community we have been able to reinvigorate the cooperative based on local food provision and fair trade.
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