History of the National Association of Artisanal Fishermen of Colombia (ANPAC)

Asociación Pescadores Artesanales de Colombia (ANPAC)

According to the article “La Asociación Nacional de Pescadores Artesanales de Colombia (*) de Jorge Eliecer Rivera Franco, published in the  Idelcoop magazine – year 1987 – Volume 14 – Nº 54 COOPERATIVAS EN EL MUNDO”. We share the summary of the history of the National Association of Artisanal Fishermen of Colombia and the Fishermen’s Cooperatives in Colombia to 1987:

In 1982, there were nominally thirty-one fishermen’s cooperatives in Colombia created by factors external to the union and the country, and not by initiatives of the fishermen themselves. He motivated the users of these companies by telling them that with their creation, the problems of marketing, credit, technical assistance, and training. (Rivera, 1978)

Unfortunately, after one or two years everything was still the same, and sometimes worse because the struggle for power in the management of the cooperative had been added to the ancestral conflicts within the community (Rivera, 1978).

The perception of the fishermen was of a “company” of which they were “partners” as one more institution of the Government, something that they did not feel as their own. The officials, conversly, attributed the “failure” of the cooperative to the “laziness” of the natives or their “vices”.

Essentially, the fisherman had not been able to understand very well the structure and functioning of this type of company and the official continued to suffer from changing the fisherman’s life and work habits, without investigating the reason for the presence of the man from the sea, river or swamp, in the humble dwellings during the hours when the bureaucracy presented reports or requested them.

The existence of their own forms of family organization, the inhabitants of the coasts and riverbanks, were not taken into account, in advance they were pointed out as expressions of unwanted times and cooperatives as an expression of development and civilization.

The prevailing illiteracy and the lack of technical assistance in all fields were replaced by speeches about how to earn more from fishing but without generating any achievement. However, the vicious circle of lack of continuity in programs and actions would be repeated with each change of government.

The idiosyncrasy blamed the fishermen for the failure of the cooperatives, placing the cause of the failures above “cultural, racial prejudices or the need for self-justification of the errors of the institution they represented.

Finally, in 1972, a direct consultation was carried out with maritime and continental fishermen, seeking promotional means and instruments that in turn would limit the interference of interest groups other than fishermen.

Similarly, regional seminars were held where valuable experiences of fishermen in other areas were exchanged. In total there were six seminars: On the Pacific and Atlantic coasts and four on the Magdalena basin. Being the last one, the most important fishing area in the country equivalent to 60% of the total production.

The consultation revealed the external and internal factors causing the incipient development of artisanal fishing (Rivera, 1978):

Internal factors 

· Lack of a union identity among fishermen.

· Low levels of schooling, expressed in high rates of illiteracy.

· Almost absolute dependence on the intermediary to sell, buy and solve family needs, such as illnesses, housing, credit and recreation.

· Contamination of fresh and maritime waters.

· Drying up of the swamps by public and private entities and improper appropriation of these.

· Unfair competition from the fishing industry.

· Low technological levels, both in the extraction and in the handling and commercialization of the products.

· Isolation of the fishing settlements, which makes them depend exclusively on the intermediary to contact the outside world.

External factors

·Lack of an authentic fishing policy by the Government, which was associated with the lack of credit lines adjusted to their possibilities and needs, rhetorical technical assistance far from the specific needs of the fish producer and marketer, lack of coordination between government entities and certain levels of competition between them, lack of a single channel of intercommunication with the State (in Colombia fishing depends on 9 ministries, 3 administrative departments, and about 33 decentralized institutions).

· Absence of adequate marketing channels.

· Eating habits that affect the. demand (each Colombian consumes an average of 4.5 kg/year);

· Imposition of associative forms or organizational models alien to their cultural patterns and not infrequently in contradiction with their traditional customs;

· Absence of comprehensive training plans and programs;

· Lack of incentives and motivations to stimulate the union organization process.

Being these, the causes of the stagnation or disappearance of the fishing cooperatives, it was agreed, a National Meeting of fishermen with the purpose of “concrete organizational formulas that would allow building solutions and alternatives to the situation of Colombian fishermen”.

“There was the conviction that in isolation it would not be possible to modify the current state of artisanal fishing and fishing workers. Integrative actions were needed, bringing fishermen from different parts of the country closer together and nurturing the construction of a genuine “union identity”, through which subjective analysis, racial prejudice and geographical or partisan conditioning, which at that time they resisted change among the fishermen of the seas, rivers and swamps.” (Frank, 1987)

1st National Meeting of Artisanal Fishermen of Colombia – April, 1977

The resources for the meeting were provided by the FAO (The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), the CMCH/AD (World Campaign Against Hunger/Action for Development) and the Popular Integration Office of the Presidency of the Republic. For its part, INDERMA (National Institute of Renewable Natural Resources) -today defunct- was in charge of organizing the event.

A total of sixty-five (65) communities met in Bogotá to exchange experiences, frustrations, expectations, and folklore for a week. This gave rise to the creation of the National Association of Artisanal Fishermen of Colombia (ANPAC), the appropriate mechanism to work and achieve the following common objectives: (Rivera, 1987)

1) Ensure the organization of all fishermen in Colombia.

2) Ensure the preservation of the country’s natural resources, especially the fishing, maritime and continental resources.

3) Ensure the integral improvement of the fisherman and his family.

4) Procure direct marketing of fish products.

5) Collect basic information on aspects of interest to the guild. 6) Promote technological innovations that increase productivity.

Despite that the operation of the Association was due to conjunctural resources of the government, the first determination of its founders was to demand absolute autonomy and determination of the convenience of maintaining relations with the government, who were not allowed to interfere in the orientation of the Association. ANPAC, the commitment of the fishermen themselves. A serious problem of goodwill, desires, and goals, with scarce financial resources and economic sources of support.

Initially, the bureaucratization or hierarchical structure was eliminated, linking the existence of the organization to a position created by the fishermen called ANPAC National Coordination, granted to a sociologist who had participated in the process of building the Association.

He would be responsible for executing the plans proposed by the directors of the ANPAC, despite the fact that there were no resources to cover the operating expenses, which were assumed by the coordinator of the Association.

The ANPAC organized the first course for managers, which aimed to provide the minimum theoretical elements to face responsibilities. Initially, the fisherman was considered a member of the community, an inhabitant of a municipality, and a citizen of a nation as well as belonging to a family nucleus. Therefore, it was necessary to develop his commitment to the society of which he is a part.

Academics with a unified vision between the theoretical academy and practical life were called to collaborate with the experience. What produced the translation of the history of Colombia, its economic development, and its social structure into an affordable language for fishermen.

Emerging thus, a commitment that is still maintained: to recognize the usefulness of empirical knowledge and scientific knowledge to transform our living and working conditions. (Rivera, 1987)

Despite the numerous complaints filed by the fishermen about the problems and needs before the government, it was not possible to change the attitude of the government officials towards the fishing union.

Therefore, supported by social communication students, they converted the memorials and interviews into visual images projected in universities, urban unions, and rural organizations. Which expressed the most significant situations and problems to urge a change in the State’s attitude, strengthening bonds of solidarity between them.

The enthusiasm of the initiative demonstrated the “very easy of some grassroots sectors”, which conditioned their participation in the organization to the resources without taking into account that these are not the whole of a development plan but “a part and that the organizations do not they are nourished by paternalism but by the commitment of their members. They understood that it is not about doing things to other fishermen, but rather about transforming things among all fishermen.” (Rivera, 1987)

In order to gain space in the nation and in the State, they decided to create their own information medium, “directing their first deliveries to tell other sectors of our society and government institutions about things pertaining to the existence and work of fishermen, emphasizing the contribution that artisanal fishing had been making to the economy of the country and to the diet of Colombians.” (Rivera, 1987) Similarly, they sought to strengthen the links of union integration by recording the successes of the subsidiary organizations, as well as pointing out the initiatives carried out by the Association.

In 1980, MinAgricultura established the National Fisheries Commission, this being the Government’s advisory body for fisheries matters, to which the artisanal fishermen were called through the ANPAC. Thus, achieving the recognition of the state and publicizing the intentions of the fishermen in the place of decision-making and requiring a common effort between artisanal fishermen and medium-sized entrepreneurs, whose interests were commonly related to the activity and attitude of the government.

During the third National Assembly in June 1982, the ANPAC would achieve an alliance between some entrepreneurs in the fishing industry and the triggering of a “concentration process” between the public and private sectors that sought to rethink the institutional structure of the fishing sector in Colombia. Thus, in order to adapt it to the existing potentialities and limitations.

This process ends, in its first stage, in the month of October 1985 with the creation of the preliminary project of the Framework Law for fishing, seeking to create the National Institute of Fisheries, the Financial Corporation for the Development of Fisheries, and the National Fund of Fishing Promotion; considered basic tools to achieve the use of the resource and fishing potential in biological, economic and social terms.

The Association continued to promote exchanges between fishermen at a level in the different areas of Colombia, and was able to formulate a strategy focused on the development of artisanal fishing identified with the Service Centers for Artisanal Fisheries (CESPAS), adopted unanimously within the National Fisheries Commission. Where the execution of 21 specialized centers covering the entire fishing geography of the country was programmed.

The ANPAC also carried out the pertinent research for 11 feasibility studies in areas with union, economic and business experience. Emphasizing the solidarity of fishermen and their organizations in the knowledge of master fishermen in fishing arts and methods, expert small and medium-scale aquaculture fishermen, skillful marketers of fish and supplies, competent administrators of fishing companies, and committed fishing extension agents. Thus promoting the exchange of experience and knowledge between fishermen. The common goal of organizations such as ANPAC, a state entity now suspended. (Rivera, 1987)

This is a summary of the article: La Asociación Nacional de Pescadores Artesanales de Colombia (*) de Jorge Eliecer Rivera Franco publicado en Revista de Idelcoop – Año 1987 – Volumen 14 – Nº 54 COOPERATIVAS EN EL MUNDO

Source La Asociación Nacional de Pescadores Artesanales de Colombia (*)
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