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FAO strengthens alliance with agricultural and food co-operatives worldwide

Director-General signs an agreement with the International Co-Operatives Alliance (ICA)
©FAO/Giuseppe Carotenuto
MOU FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva signing the Memorandum of Understandings with Ms. Pauline Green, President International Co-operative Alliance. FAO headquarters.

15 October 2013, Rome, Italy – FAO and the International Co-operatives Alliance (ICA)begin a new collaboration with the shared conviction that agricultural and food co-operatives must be central to any agricultural and rural development strategy. A Memorandum of Understanding that underlines this idea was signed today at FAO Headquarters by FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva and ICA President Pauline Green.

“Co-operatives are back to FAO’s agenda. Bringing co-operatives back to the global agenda is also a priority request I receive from all African countries”, said FAO Director-General Graziano da Silva. “I believe that we did a really good job joining efforts during the International Year of Cooperatives. Today, we are formally strengthening our collaboration and developing a joint workplan, both at the policy making  and technical level”, he added.

“Co-operators are honoured to see formalized, through today’s memorandum, the standing recognition of agricultural co-operatives as crucial partners in the sustainable eradication of hunger and poverty. In a most practical way, we expect the memorandum to support and empower co-operatives to stand stronger as key partners”, said Pauline Green, President of the International Co-operative Alliance.  Pauline Green praised Director-General for the way the relationship between FAO and ICA has built and developed, ‘especially since your visit to Manchester during the ICA Global Expo of  last November”, she added. “This is a ground-breaking partnership and today, the beginning of a very exciting journey. We look forward to the new stages of collaboration”.

One of the keys to hunger reduction is economic growth, which is fostered by shared knowledge. The memorandum signed today foresees a wide exchange of technical knowledge, governance tools and methodologies. Through its emphasis on knowledge building and exchange, the memorandum will increase co-operatives’ capacity to develop their enterprises in an environmentally, socially and economically sustainable way.

Farmers are the largest investors in developing country agriculture. The signature of this agreement reiterates FAO’s and ICA’s common belief that farmers must be central to any agricultural and rural development strategy. The two parties agreed to support the advancement of the co-operative model at an individual, organizational, and legal level.  Both parties agree that eradicating hunger sustainably will require a significant increase in agricultural investments and effectiveness improvement.

Agricultural co-operatives play a key role in helping farmers and smallholders to confront many of the challenges before them. Co-operatives provide services including access to markets, financial services and participation in policy and decision making processes.

Founded in 1895, the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) is an independent, non-governmental organisation established to unite, represent and serve co-operatives worldwide. It provides a global voice and forum for knowledge, expertise and co-ordinated action for and about co-operatives, federating members from one hundred countries, representing one billion individuals worldwide. One hundred million people work for a co-operative globally.

Co-operatives are owned by their members . Farmer members have an equal say in the business and share profits. Through the co-operative network, farmers are taught efficient, accessible techniques to increase production and how to work together to increase output and income. As part of a larger group, farmers can negotiate better market opportunities, higher crop prices and lower costs for inputs like seeds and equipment.

FAO seized the opportunity offered by the UN General Assembly when the International Year of Co-operatives in 2012 was proclaimed by choosing Agricultural co-operatives - key to feeding the worldas the theme of the 2012 World Food Day.  Today, there is greater recognition that the co-operative enterprise model is resistant to shocks and crisis while improving food security and reducing poverty.