World Food Day: Cooperatives are Key to Feeding the World

"It has been said repeatedly that we have the means to eliminate hunger and malnutrition. What is needed is the establishment of an enabling environment that allows small producers to take full advantage of available opportunities. Strong cooperatives and producer organisations are an essential part of that enabling environment." Director-General of FAO, José Graziano da Silva.

Tuesday 16 October 2012 is World Food Day and this year's theme makes it clear that small farmers can offer a solution to the world's biggest food problems.

Agricultural Cooperatives: Key to feeding the world is the theme for World Food Day 2012, organised by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations to bring people together to campaign against hunger, malnutrition and poverty.

Nearly one in seven people around the globe suffer from undernourishment. Most commentators agree that we will increasingly rely on smallholders to provide much of the extra food needed to feed the growing global population (read more). That makes supporting and investing in small producers and cooperatives all the more important – something that Fairtrade has been doing now for over two decades.

Across the world, Fairtrade is helping small producer organisations to strengthen their position, take more control over the value chain and become viable businesses. Of our 927 producer organizations worldwide, over 75% are small producer organizations.

Cooperatives and small farmers have always been an integral part of the Fair Trade movement. The first-ever Fairtrade labelled product – coffee sold in 1988 under Max Havelaar label in the Netherlands – came from cooperatives of small scale Mexican coffee farmers. Now almost 25 years later there are over 320 Fairtrade coffee co-ops worldwide. In 2011 they received over €28 million in Fairtrade Premium money.

Many of these are based in Latin America, but the model is also bearing fruit across Africa and Asia too. Oromia Coffee Cooperative Union, mentioned in the FAO report, is just one example. The number of Fairtrade cooperatives belonging to Oromia has risen from 11 to 28 since 2001. Since then they have increased their quality of their coffee, sold more volumes, and implemented 186 projects with the Fairtrade Premium.

Fairtrade cocoa, sugar, cotton, coffee, herbs and spices are all exclusively sourced from small producer organisations. Fairtrade producer co-ops and associations are jointly owned and democratically governed by the producers themselves. Fairtrade certification, through its price floor safety net, access to new markets and training on sound environmental and agricultural practices, has often given cooperatives the boost they need to become viable businesses.

We will continue working hard to support our small farmers, and workers around the world and hope that, after this World Food Day, more business and organisations will join us.

Fairtrade has been celebrating 2012 being the UN Year of the Cooperatives by posting stories about Fairtrade cooperatives on the Fairtrade International Meet the Producers webpage and Fairtrade On the Road blog. From small co-ops of just seven members, up to one of the largest cocoa exporters worldwide: All of them have a success story to tell, but also so much more that they still would like to achieve.

For small producer organisations to continue to grow and flourish, they need the necessary support. A Fairtrade Foundation report commissioned earlier this year, "Making International Supply Chains Work for Smallholders", shows with the right investment and business intervention, small farmer organisations can increase food productivity and contribute to poverty reduction in rural communities. Read more here.




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