Our History

Where it all began......

peter boweThe first group to be registered under the new legislation was the National Women’s Co-operative Society Limited with the aim of providing housing for members. The registration date was January 10, 1975. Prior to this time there had been sporadic attempts to form co-operatives. One of the earliest was in the 1940’s when the late Fr J. P. Sullivan helped establish a credit union at St Francis Xaviers Cathedral that was active until the early 1960’s.

In 1954 a community coconut farm was established at Fernandez Bay on Cat Island whose vestiges are still evident today. Also in the 1950’s a government-sponsored Madeira tree plantation was set up at Dean’s to harvest timber for furniture-making.

This farm was also abandoned. In 1963 Rudolph Burgzorg was instrumental in forming NEED (for National Education and Economic Development) which was registered in 1965 under the Companies Act by the late labour leader and parliamentarian Sir Randol Fawkes.

In 1967 Burgzorg, together with King and Shirley Nixon, Tony Christie, Anthony Carey, Stephanie Carey, Peter Galanis, Arthur Richardson, Chalam Miller, Peter Bowe and Clement Maynard, formed the first co-operative food store located on Palm Tree Street. This venture closed in 1970.“ Burgzorg

I was, and still am, thoroughly convinced that cooperative democracy is the kind of economic activity that Christians should pursue,” Mr Burgzorg wrote in a recent account. “So I decided to make an effort to form a consumer co-operative society. It was on our recommendation and continued prodding that the government decided to enact co-operative legislation.”

According to the first Director of the Department of Co-operative Development, Robert Hall, the initiative for legislation on the government side came from former Minister of Finance Carlton Francis, who saw co-ops as a vehicle for farmers and fishermen to enjoy greater economies of scale. At the time, Mr Hall was an official in the Ministry of Finance who had received training at Loughborough Co-operative College in England.

“Minister Francis appointed a committee in late 1969 (which) visited several Caribbean countries in search of legislation which might be used as a guide for preparing (our) legislation,” Mr Hall wrote in a recent account. “Between the preparation and enactment of this legislation, the responsibility for co-operative development was moved from the Ministry of Finance to the Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries under Minister Anthony Roberts.”

A farmer’s co-op was established in North Eleuthera in the late 1960’s, and from 1968 to 1971 about 18 similar groups operated in farming and fishing. After the new legislation was implemented, the hotel workers union became the second group to establish a co-operative when the National Workers Credit Union was formed on November 17, 1976.

In 1977, National Workers joined with three other credit unions (Anglican Diocesan, Salem Union Baptist Church, and Teachers & Salaried Workers) to explore the formation of an association. Leaders in this development included the late Sir Kendal Isaacs, Eris Moncur, the late Rev Carlton Francis, Edward ‘ Bobby’ Glinton, Huel Moss, Audley Humes, Albertha Byer and Rose Culmer.

This association was registered in May, 1980 as the Bahamas Credit Union League with Sir Kendal Isaacs as its first president, and six new credit unions were immediately added to the membership list. These were the Distillers, Bahamas Elks, Public Workers, Grand Bahama, Masonic and Eastern Star, and the New Providence Credit Union. The league established a full-time secretariat in 1981 with Valarie Clarke as its first manager.acher receiving awards

Shortly thereafter the league joined the Caribbean Confederation of Credit Unions. In 1992 it opened its own office building in Pyfrom’s Addition named the KGL Isaacs Building. Two years later the organization’s name was changed to the Bahamas Cooperative League to reflect its status as the official umbrella association for the entire co-operative movement.

Today, the movement has grown to encompass 15 credit unions, 5 producer/supplier co-operatives, and The Bahamas Co-operative League. The 31,000 members of these co-operatives now control over $200 million dollars in assets.

In recognition of this expansion, the government will soon enact new legislation to update the regulatory framework in which co-ops operate.

According to the current Director of Co-operative Development, Nathaniel Adderley, the objectives are to “encourage initiative, promote the growth, and protect the safety and soundness of co-operative enterprises, and update the law to meet changing conditions so that the movement can continue to prosper.”

Bahamas Co-operative Movement Fact Sheet
Established in May 1980, the Bahamas Co-operative League Limited is the non-governmental apex body for co-operatives in The Bahamas.

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