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FAO Liaison Office in New York

International Day of Cooperatives 2019




Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,


  • I would like to begin by thanking UN DESA for organizing this important event to commemorate the International Day of Cooperatives.


  •  As we’ve heard from previous speakers, this year’s theme on “Coops 4 Decent Work” confirms that cooperatives have a critical role to play in helping to better the lives of those left furthest behind, particularly in the rural setting where the majority of the population depends on agricultural to earn their living.


  • FAO recognizes the strong value that cooperatives bring and works to promote the growth of agricultural cooperatives in a number of ways, such as by:
  1. supporting the establishment of an enabling environment, which includes assisting governments to develop appropriate regulatory and legal frameworks;
  2. enhancing the effective participation of rural farmers and small-scale producers in policy dialogue processes to advocate for their members’ needs, making their voice heard at the national, regional and global level and by
  3. facilitating the development of producers’ capacities, including their technical, managerial, organizational and marketing skills.


  • Agricultural cooperatives are found all over the world; in fact, 33% of the 300 world’s largest cooperatives are in the agricultural sector. And they operate along the entire agricultural value chain, from cultivation to processing to marketing.


  • Members participate in production, profit-sharing, cost-saving, risk-sharing and income-generating activities that lead to better bargaining power for members as buyers and sellers in the market place.


  • And since a majority of the world’s farms are less than 2 acres in size, agricultural cooperatives help to improve the productivity of small holder farmers and in turn reduce poverty by facilitating access to markets, credit, technology and insurance.


  • This confirms the importance of cooperatives in their role of empowering their members economically and socially, particularly woman, who face additional disadvantages, and by also creating sustainable rural employment through business models that are resilient to economic and environmental shocks.


  • Allow me to highlight just a couple of examples where FAO helps to support cooperatives.


  • In Costa Rica, many communities depend on traditional methods of fishing for food and income. In particular, more than 1,000 families of mollusc gatherers engage in fisheries for their livelihoods, yet they represent one of the most vulnerable sectors. Many of these gatherers are also women who work in the informal sector, however they lack access to social protection and receive little recognition for their contributions to the development of their communities. FAO and partners have supported local community organizations of women fishers, to develop their capacities to engage with the Government so as to obtain legal recognition of their work and achieve better working conditions to improve their livelihoods
  • The second example is from Bangladesh.  In Panjor Bhanga, profit through agriculture is increasingly difficult due to frequent flooding that submerges farmland and roads. The Panjor Bhanga Women’s Milk Cooperative offered an alternative source of income to its members. FAO supported the training of its members to help them gain access to financing to invest in high-yielding dairy cattle, leading to substantially increased milk production and sales. From the sale of the heifers, the women members were able to pay back the loan in full and deposit the revenue into the Cooperative savings account for future investments.


Ladies and Gentlemen,


  • More should be done to strengthen these organizations and give them greater space and visibility.


  • Today’s celebration is an occasion to renew our commitment to continue advocating for cooperatives and pledge our support to cooperatives, as their contribution is so vital to the well-being and livelihoods of the people who we are here to serve.


Thank you.