Claudionor Da Silva

Ashoka Fellow
Brazil,
Fellow Since 2003
Grupo de Trabalho Amazônico - GTA

Citation

This profile was prepared when Claudionor Da Silva was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2003.
The New Idea
In the last 20 years, the men and women who fish the coastal waters of northeastern Brazil have won several battles for fairer organizations to represent them and better status in the eyes of the state. Despite the real and important benefits that have accrued to them, however, their overall lot in life is far from enviable. In short, they remain poor. Their bare survival may be ensured, but there are few, if any, opportunities for them to develop and prosper as professionals and citizens.
Claudionor is introducing the small-scale fishing sector to its second era of citizen action, extending the small producer's role into the processing and retailing of fish. The cooperative system pools small fishing families' resources in order to transport the fish to port, maintain and prepare fish for sale at special depots, and sell them at "sanitary" fish markets opened and operated in cooperation with government. Claudionor's strategy is not to compete with commercial fish traders on price–the traders deal in such high volume that market competition is unlikely to work–but on quality. Drawing on the producers' expertise, as well as on municipal governments' interest in public health, Claudionor sees that cooperatives can guarantee a much better quality of fish for roughly the same price. The cooperatives will capture a small portion of the retail fish market, perhaps 5 to 10 percent. But Claudionor's purpose is not to take over the industry or displace merchants from their own source of livelihood. Instead, he wants to shift consumer demand for a better product and position small fishers to take on more lucrative roles in serving the industry.
By transporting and selling their own fish, producers pocket more of the profits–this is the nature of a cooperative. But Claudionor is just as interested in opening up the world-view of the fishers, particularly in encouraging their children to take up professional careers that will improve the fishing economy for everyone. Young people are being trained to manage and expand the cooperatives and their transport, storage, and marketing systems. Claudionor sees the cooperatives as a source of scholarships for higher education in related fields like fishing, engineering, and small enterprise development.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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