World Food Day brought agricultural co-operatives into the spotlight on 16 October. World leaders expressed their support for agricultural co-ops, among them Pope Benedict XVI, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva, Italian president, Giorgio Napolitano and UN Secretary general, Ban Ki-moon.
World Food Day highlighted that agricultural co-operatives, already helping millions of small-scale farmers, could have an even greater contribution to tackling poverty and hunger, providing they are given the appropriate support from governments, civil society and academics.
Pope Benedict XVI expressed his support for agricultural co-ops in a message read by Archbishop Luigi Travaglino at a ceremony at FAO headquarters attended dignitaries, heads of Rome-based UN agencies and special guests.
The leader of worldwide Catholic Church wrote: "Agricultural co-operatives have an alternative vision to those economic models that seem to have as their only goals, profit, the interests of the markets, the use of food crops for non-food purposes and the introduction of new food production technologies without the necessary precautions,"
He continued by saying that "the presence of co-operatives can put an end to the trend of speculation in essential food commodities intended for human consumption, and reduce the large-scale acquisition of arable lands that in many regions forces farmers off their land because by themselves they are too weak to defend their rights."
In his statement on World Food Day UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also emphasised on the essential role played by agricultural co-ops in in meeting the Zero Hunger Challenge that he launched at the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in June.
"The great expertise of agricultural co-operatives will be invaluable in achieving one of the initiative's primary aims: doubling the income and productivity of smallholder farmers," he said.
In his message sent for the FAO ceremony in Rome, Italian president Giorgio Napolitano also said co-operatives have proved to be more resilient during crisis. He explained: “Co-operatives are able to preserve levels of profit and employment even at times of economic recession. They may therefore represent for economic actors and policy makers the model to inspire future decisions, rethinking economic development in a more sustainable manner that puts the human being again at the heart of any economic process.”
"Co-operatives”, continued Mr Napolitano, “are also a stimulus for democracy, as demonstrated by their ability to encourage participation, respect for rules and aggregation of members around common values."
Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the International Fund on Agricultural Development also stressed the importance of co-operation in his statement at the ceremony. He said: "Our experience at IFAD working with farmers has proven time and time again that cooperatives are critical to reach these objectives."
This is why we place a lot of emphasis on co-operatives and continue to enhance our work with them."
Figures released last week by FAO show that despite there being 132 million fewer hungry people in the world compared to 20 years ago, there are still nearly 870 million people who go without enough food every day.
"Agricultural cooperatives – key to feeding the world" was the official theme of World Food Day 2012
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- Agricultural cooperative
- Benedict XVI
- Business models
- Catholic Church
- Civil society
- Company Employees Number
- Consumer cooperative
- FAO headquarters
- Food and Agriculture Organization
- Food politics
- Giorgio Napolitano
- Graziano da Silva
- Kanayo F. Nwanze
- Luigi Travaglino
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- Rural community development
- Secretary General
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- United Nations Development Group
- World Food Day