On World Food Day, praise for a humble business structure: The co-op

Social Enterprise

On World Food Day, praise for a humble business structure: The co-op

Filipino farmers plant rice. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/20119750@N00/2680751025/">Schubert Ciencia (Flickr)</a>
Filipino farmers plant rice. Photo: Schubert Ciencia (Flickr)

For agriculture cooperatives, this year’s World Food Day has been a day in the sun.

Given the right support from governments, civil society and private institutions, agriculture cooperatives “could expand and make an even greater contribution against poverty and hunger” said the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization during this year’s celebration of World Food Day.

Agriculture cooperatives are receiving timely attention: while there are approximately 132 million fewer hungry mouths in the world than there were 20 years ago, 870 million people still don't know where their next meal will come from.

Cooperatives, which are voluntary alliances between farmers, offer some unique solutions. They provide smallholder farmers an opportunity to pool their resources—sharing wells or production, storage and shipping machines. Co-ops give small farmers an incentive to share best-practices and market information. Ultimately these agriculture alliances allow farmers a fighting chance to compete in a formidable and dynamic global marketplace.

As Hiroyuki Konuma, assistant director-general of the FAO stated, agricultural cooperatives and farming alliances are increasingly important.

"Rapid expansion of hypermarket and supermarket chains has made small-scale farmers more vulnerable to competition. If they stand alone, each small farmer has fewer opportunities. Standing as a group, they can compete and succeed in a modern and competitive business climate."

Agriculture cooperatives give farmers and landholders stronger negotiating power and better access to credit and insurance schemes. Formal associations also provide increased opportunities for many individual farmers to gain new skills—to learn how to grow better harvests that meet and exceed market demands.

RELATED: A mobile farming information service prepares to launch in Ethiopia

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