On this World Food Day, with its focus on “Agricultural cooperatives – key to feeding the world”, the ILO joins the international community in highlighting the role of agricultural cooperatives in food production and assuring food security – as well as the jobs created and livelihoods sustained in the process.
Just under 870 million persons were undernourished in 2010-2012, mostly in developing countries, the majority in rural areas. While there has been progress, in a world of plenty this is unacceptable and one reflection of imbalances and injustices requiring urgent redress.
As business models that are responsive to members needs and to social objectives, cooperatives have a central role to play in new strategies for fair and sustainable development. Cooperatives have proved to be adaptable to a range of circumstances – from small-scale initiatives of indigenous farmers defending their food sovereignty and traditional knowledge to large scale multinational undertakings.
Experience around the world shows that farmers, fisher folk, foresters and herders have used cooperative organization to increase food production, gain market access, obtain better prices on agricultural inputs, participate more effectively in global value chains and also to manage natural resources and enhance food security. Cooperatives have also been channels for opening up access to financial services and social protection coverage. Agricultural cooperatives have offered an effective organizational basis for realizing the right to food for all, particularly for the working poor in the rural and informal economies and also for empowering rural women and supporting their important contribution to food production and food security.
Agricultural cooperatives – as do all cooperatives – require a favourable environment if they are to thrive. From coffee farmers in Oromia, Ethiopia to dairy producers in Rajasthan in India, there are examples of the positive impact of cooperatives when the right support is in place. As we strive for a more just world, let us exchange experience, build on it and introduce policies and regulations, education and training programmes and capacity building initiatives that will allow the cooperatives to take root and flourish.
As the International Year of Cooperatives draws to a close, it is appropriate to re-affirm today the value of the cooperative model - and of agricultural cooperatives in particular in ensuring that all can enjoy the right to food - and as vehicles for decent lives, decent work and sustainable development.
Let our actions reinforce the cooperative movement and enable cooperatives to go from strength to strength, capable of generating decent jobs and supporting vibrant and resilient agricultural communities as they produce to feed families, communities and the world.