Food security must be the top priority of co-ops in order to achieve a better world, said Vincent Lokin, the Executive Director Cooperatives Banking and Sustainability of Rabobank, during his keynote speech at the UN’s IYC Closing Ceremony.
Mr Lokin opened the two-day event by explaining that although the IYC had been a milestone for the Co-operative Movement, “we must realise that the great job is yet to be done,” he said.
Rabobank, one of the world’s largest co-ops, was founded by farmers 114 years ago, it is now the 26th largest financial institution in the world, and is present in 47 countries.
“We are facing increasing geographical imbalance between food production and consumption, growing scarcity of natural resources and even more extreme weather conditions in the coming decades. The food sector is also becoming more and more interlinked to other sectors that an increase in energy prices will immediately lead to higher food prices;” said Mr Lokin.
He added that the world needs a new vision on agriculture and new business models, because “‘business as usual’ no longer meets the global food requirements of the 21st century.”
“We must change course,” he continued.
The population of the world is likely to increase to nine billion by 2050, and today approximately one billion people worldwide are suffering from hunger and malnutrition. Mr Lokin said that the challenge of doubling the food supply by 2050 is a “gargantuan task.”
He added: “Food shortage will continue to slow economic growth, hit the urban and rural poor in low-income countries disproportionately, strain public finances, and raise geopolitical tensions.
“Rabobank believes that solving this issue is virtually inconceivable without tapping into the underused production potentials of the existing small-scale farms in developing countries.”
The Executive Director said the basic premise is to educate small farmers that food production is a long-term business and to ingrain smallholder inclusion in the food value chain. He added: “we cannot stimulate rural development without addressing the issue of rural finance development.”
“Why co-operatives?” he asked; “Because through co-operation, farmers will be able to compensate for the disadvantages of the small scale and fragmentation of the production. A wise man said, ‘When change is cultivated from within, every tree and every plant will be able to root itself in its own soil and flourish.’”
He ended by saying: “As united we stand, divided we fall. It is now the moment to pick up our responsibility to build on a better world! Within the new vision on agriculture for the achievement of global food security, Rabobank will play a distinct role in connecting the bottom and the top of the food pyramid and all actors of the food value chains in the decades to come.”
"The IYC is coming to an end, but the power of co-ops certainly is not."