Governments need to start creating a world in which co-operatives can grow, said Jack Wilkinson, Director, Nipissing-Sudbury Cooperative at the International Year of Co-operatives Closing Event on Food Security.
Mr Wilkinson, who has worked in farming for nearly all his life in Canada, lambasted multinational companies such as Google and Starbucks for not paying their taxes in Europe.
He said that his co-operative paid its taxes and: “I know my government benefits from me being in a co-operative.” He added that governments needed to find ways for co-operatives to grow, by creating a better “society and economic” place for co-ops.
Mr Wilkinson continued to say that if the benefits of the co-operative model are well known; “why is it not the business model of choice? What do we need to do differently to what we’re currently doing?”
He asked why co-operative education wasn’t taught in schools or MBAs. Why, he said, are these courses tucked away at small institutions, rather than being taught at the big business schools?
The Director continued and said that the Movement had to make a “conscious effort” and it will be a “challenge” but they need a “more aggressive strategy".
He explained that for many years the Co-operative Movement was in decline, many co-ops demutualised and it lost some of its biggest agricultural co-operatives. However, through this IYC, he said it was good to see how co-ops have “weathered the storm” and now the Movement has started to “really feel we have come off the bottom, we’re feeling good about ourselves, I am encouraged about things that have taken place and where we are going".
“There is a sense of energy and pride that has come back to the Movement.”
However, there are still problems in areas such as poverty and food production. Mr Wilkinson has travelled across over 60 countries in the developing world, he explained that in many countries, large amounts of food were being lost post harvest and pre consumption – up to 40 per cent.
He explained that a co-op model, which gives people control and allows them to receive all the benefits is needed in these countries.
He praised the work that Rabobank have been doing helping smallholder farmers gain access to finance in the developing world. He added: “I challenge of all the rest of the co-ops worldwide to do the same.”