World Food Day 2012 celebrates agricultural co-operatives

The theme of World Food Day 2012, held on 16 October, is Agricultural Co-operatives: Key to Feeding the World. This is to mark the International Year of Cooperatives...

The theme of World Food Day 2012, held on 16 October, is Agricultural Co-operatives: Key to Feeding the World. This is to mark the International Year of Cooperatives (IYC) and to highlight the impact co-ops have on poor rural communities.

The International Co-operative Agricultural Organisation (ICAO) has expressed its support for the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation's (FAO) World Food Day in a statement, that highlights the importance of agricultural co-ops in helping farmers earn a decent living and meet global food needs.

The ICAO explained how co-operatives from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Korea, Japan, Norway, Sweden, the UK and the US are working to combat food insecurity and fight poverty.

The statement said: “Agricultural co-operatives are value-based businesses that are the essence of both ‘can do’ and ‘must do’. ‘Can do’ in the sense that farmers who alone could not compete with their limited crop yields or limited capital, together can help build a better and more secure world. ‘Must do’ because it is agricultural co-operatives which reflect co-operative values, including giving back to the community, helping not just the individual to earn a living but supporting the communities in which those co-operatives reside."

The document further shows how agricultural co-operatives from all over the world are making a positive change by providing solutions to agricultural challenges.

In Argentina, in the context of a severe political crisis and the first financial crisis of 1929, 28 farmers from 26 farms in three different provinces formed the Federal Argentinian Farmers (Agricultores Federados Argentinos/AFA) aiming to run the business as a co-operative. The co-operative has now become the biggest cereal grains producer in Argentina, with a stockpile capacity of over three million tons.

The ICAO also gives the example of how Korean agricultural organisations are successfully approaching the food-security challenges in a three-tier manner: marketing, banking and extension services.

Another case study referred to in the ICAO’s statement is Ethiopia, where ACDI/VOCA partnered with Selele Diary Producers Cooperative Union in 2010 to improve food quality and availability. The initiative has proved to be successful, with 27 co-operative associations and members from 2,000 households having inaugurated a major animal feed-processing plant and a dairy processing plant.

The ICAO concludes that the wide range of agricultural co-operatives is a reflection of the strength of the co-operative movement in meeting food security, addressing poverty reduction and securing sustainable development.

It explained: “On this World Food Day it is fitting to pay tribute to what this value-based business model offers. It is a key element in moving closer to food security for all citizens of the world”.

The ICAO is a sectoral organisation of the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) and promotes the co-operative movement in rural communities helping smallholder farmers to obtain badly needed resources for their production, while also assisting them in getting better terms in their output markets and in maintaining their businesses in a sustainable way.

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