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"Confronting Climate Change": How cooperatives contribute to meeting today's challenges

Ranging from small-scale to multi-million dollar businesses, cooperatives employ today some 100 million women and men in both industrialized and developing countries, and have more than 800 million individual members across the globe. 'Concern for community' is one of the Cooperative Principles which guides the work of cooperatives around the world. Celebrated annually on the first Saturday of July, the 14th UN International Day of Cooperatives focuses this year on the significant contribution that cooperatives can make to mitigating climate change. In the context of climate change and food price rises, cooperatives do play a role in rural areas around the world. The following pictures highlight not only how cooperatives reduce carbon emissions, but also promote sustainable development in general.

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Cooperating in times of crisis
In India, the needs of 67% of rural households are covered by cooperatives. Neela Jayaram lives in the village of Kesavarayampatti, Tamil Nadu State. Few years ago, she was toiling away in the paddy fields struggling to support her four children and ageing husband. Life was hard and sometimes she slept on an empty stomach. Today, Neela Jayaram's life, and that of her family, has dramatically improved. Together with a host of other women from the 120 families living in Kesavarayampatti, she has formed a self-help group based on dairy farming. Photo:ILO/Crozet M.
Rural cooperatives promote green jobs
Cooperatives boost rural tourism: rural tourism cooperatives offer rural populations a means to diversify incomes, create new employment opportunities and thus reduce rural exodus, while enabling a positive valuation of heritage and culture. Many are established along eco-tourism principles. CoopeSilencio in Costa Rica is an agricultural cooperative that has been active in eco-tourism since 1997. Although its main activity is the production of palm oil and basic cereals, it is also engaged in reforestation, environmental protection and agro-tourism activities. Together these activities have enabled the cooperative to not only provide farm training, but also operate a child day-care centre and school. It also provides social protection (health care and pensions). Photo:ILO/
Wind cooperatives: A powerful community model
Not only an attractive resource due to its low cost and ecological benefits, wind energy also creates local employment. However, establishing wind farms requires that the communities are part of the planning process to ensure its acceptance and continued operation. Denmark is living proof that community-owned power can go a long way to creating a renewable energy future. Started in the 1970's when three rural Danish families banded together to install a wind turbine, wind power cooperatives are now a nationwide movement with more than 100,000 family members. Together the cooperatives have installed 80% of Denmark's turbines which now account for 10% of the entire country's electricity needs. Photo:ILO/Crozet M.
Cooperatives: an option for successful agricultural development
ILO research undertaken in Africa in 2005 revealed that cooperatives in Africa are about to enter a phase of 'renaissance' but need a favourable legal and institutional environment, greater visibility, a stronger voice, further diversification, improved governance, better management, and solid horizontal networks and vertical structures. In the quarries of Mtongani (Dar Es Salaam), a cooperative mushroom and hen house project directed was proposed as an alternative to the stone breaking that used to be the principal economic activity of women in the district. Lazia (left), who is 50 years old and has 6 children, now works at the mushroom cultivation project. Photo:ILO/Crozet M.
Interest in cooperative enterprise growing in Africa
In 2007, the ILO launched a new programme in Africa called Cooperative Facility for Africa, or in short COOPAFRICA. The programme pursues the overarching goal of mobilizing the cooperative self-help mechanism and to improve their governance, efficiency and performance in order to strengthen their capacity to create jobs, access markets, generate income, reduce poverty, provide social protection and give people a voice in society. Photo:ILO/Maillard J.
Ethiopian coffee cooperative builds thriving rural communities
The Oromia Coffee Farmers' Cooperative Union (OCFCU) is a representative example of how agricultural cooperatives improve their members' income and social conditions. In a broader sense, it is also an illustration of how cooperatives help to reduce poverty, fight against child labour through education, contribute to the Millennium Development Goals and promote Decent Work. Photo:ILO/
Ethiopian coffee cooperation builds thriving rural communities
As a producer of fair-trade coffee, Oromia Coffee Farmers' Cooperative is able to use Fair Trade Premium and its social fund to finance community development programmes. It has already funded 28 education projects (construction of new primary schools, expansion of existing schools, etc), 8 health projects (establishment of health clinics, purchase of medical equipment and maintaining clinic operations), 36 clean water projects, the construction of a bridge and the improvement of electrical supply. Photo:ILO/
People, power, prosperity: Small businesses form Yebo cooperative
These brick layers are part of the Yebo umbrella cooperative. Created in March 2003, the Yebo cooperative is a support and organization serving its members in eight of the nine provinces in South Africa. It has brought together people who have the same or similar needs and interests in a wide number of sectors and economic activities. For example, the Yebo-Mayibuye Waste Recycling Cooperative brought together 38 scavengers who collected recyclable waste to sell to recycling companies. By organising in a cooperative, the members were able to end victimisation by municipal officials and exploitation by the recycling companies who offered low prices. Today the 128 member-strong cooperative is purchasing equipment and setting up a savings and credit cooperative. Besides creating new jobs and increasing its members' income, Yebo cooperatives have contributed to improving supplies such as foodstuffs especially in the rural areas and townships of South Africa. Photo:ILO/
Cooperatives linked to rural prosperity in Finland
Maintaining or increasing diversity in economic activities is one of the most important targets for rural development, i.e. to get the widest possible participation of stakeholders. In the beginning of the 21st century, the role of cooperatives in Finland is remarkable in national and local economies as well as for households. In food and forest sectors, retail trade, banking and insurance, cooperatives are market leaders. Since the 1990's, cooperative enterprises have been established in Finland in new fields, providing innovative contributions both to changing labour markets and emerging service needs. Cooperatives have been able to turn diverse know-how into successful businesses, work for the unemployed, and preventing social exclusion. Photo:ILO/
One UN initiative in Madagascar seeks to include cooperatives
Officials in Madagascar recognize that cooperatives have a potential in reducing poverty, addressing food security issues and creating jobs. As such, they are interested in including a cooperative component in the new "one United Nations" project to promote food security by introducing a network of grain banks in southern Madagascar where drought and desertification are common. Photo:ILO/Crozet M.
French agricultural cooperatives: responsible employers
With 3,200 enterprises, cooperatives play a prominent role in agriculture and the food industry in France. They employ 150,000 full-time workers and represent a turnover of over 80 billion Euros. Three out of four of the 406,000 French farms are members of cooperatives. Their impact translates as well into sustainable development policy, such as building sustainability indicators, enhancing biomass development, environmental and social responsability. Photo:ILO/Maillard J.
ILO says...
"Cooperatives can lead us closer towards a democratic, people-centred economy which cares for the environment, while promoting economic growth, social justice and fair globalization" said the Director General of the ILO, Juan Somavia. The International Labour Organization (ILO) has been active in cooperative development for the last 86 years, providing member States with assistance in cooperative policy, legislation, training, business development and networking. It is the only UN-organization with a dedicated cooperative development Branch, and the only organization that has developed an international standard in this field (i.e. ILO Recommendation 193). Photo:ILO/Crozet M.

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Last update: Sunday - 19 January 2020