Agricultural cooperatives critical to fight hunger
16 October 2012, Rome -Agricultural cooperatives, already enriching
millions of small-scale farmers, could expand and make an even greater
contribution against poverty and hunger, if they were given the right
support by governments,
civil society and academia.
That is the
key message of this year's World Food Day, observed today in 150 countries.
theme this year focuses on
"Agricultural cooperatives - key to feeding
and coincides with the International Year of Cooperatives.
World Food Day also commemorates the date when FAO was founded in 1945.
The fight against hunger was given new impetus last week with the
release of figures showing 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,
Pope Benedict XVI said in a message for World Food Day that given the human dimension,
agricultural cooperatives are able to favour economic development that meet
the most pressing local needs.
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,"
the Pope said.
"The presence of cooperatives 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,"
The Pope's message was read
by Archbishop Luigi Travaglino at a ceremony at FAO headquarters attended
by dignitaries, heads of Rome-based UN agencies and special guests.
Appeal to governments
FAO Director-General José
Graziano da Silva emphasized the need to work for the total eradication of
hunger, adding that many countries, in South America, Africa and Asia, are
proving that it is possible.
Graziano da Silva threw his weight
behind cooperatives as a major way to lift small-scale farmers out of
poverty and hunger.
Although they produce most of the food in many
countries, he said small-scale farmers had poor access to markets to sell
their products, lack of bargaining power to buy inputs at better prices and
a lack of access to financial services.
cooperatives can help smallholders overcome these constraints,"
"Cooperatives play a crucial role in generating employment,
reducing poverty, and improving food security, and contributing to the
gross domestic product in many countries."
The FAO chief
urged governments to do their part and "create conditions that allow
producer organizations and cooperatives to thrive".
Message from UN Secretary-General
UN Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon said in a messge to World Food Day that agricultural cooperatives would
be crucial 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 cooperatives will be invaluable
in achieving one of the initiative's primary aims: doubling the income and
productivity of smallholder farmers,"
Italian president Giorgio Napolitano said
in a message to the ceremony that
“co-operatives are able to preserve
levels of profit and employment even at times of economic recession.
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
"Co-operatives … are also
a stimulus for democracy, as demonstrated by their ability to encourage
participation, respect for rules and aggregation of members around common
IFAD and cooperatives
President Kanayo F. Nwanze of the International Fund on Agricultural
Development told the ceremony that the Fund works closely with cooperatives
"From tea growers in Rwanda to livestock
resource centres in Nepal, there are many examples of how cooperatives
better support smallholder farmers to not only organize themselves, but to
collectively increase their opportunities and resources,"
"Our experience at IFAD working with farmers has proven time
and time again that cooperatives are critical to reach these
objectives," he said.
"This is why we place a lot of emphasis on
cooperatives and continue to enhance our work with them."
WFP chief on hunger
In her address, the World Food Programme
Executive Director Ertharin Cousin spoke on the need for social safety nets
for those who could barely feed themselves.
"In our world,
too many still struggle to find their next meal. Social protection and
safety net programmes enable the most vulnerable, particularly women and
children, to lift themselves out of hunger and poverty,"
"These programmes provide a cushion that is otherwise unavailable and
build resilience against economic and environmental shocks."
Press release FAO