Co-ops key in smallholder agriculture

Agricultural co-operatives play a key role in improving the lives of millions of smallholder farmers and their families.

Agricultural co-operatives play a key role in improving the lives of millions of smallholder farmers and their families, three United Nations (UN) agencies said at the launch of the International Year of Cooperatives 2012 in New York.

As part of these co-ops, smallholder farmers can negotiate better terms in contract farming and lower prices for inputs, said the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

The agencies are committed to supporting agri co-ops, which offer a sound business model suited to the needs of rural communities in developing countries.

Co-ops operate in all sectors of the economy, not just agriculture, counting over 800 million members and providing 100 million jobs worldwide – 20% more than multinational enterprises. In 2008, the largest 300 co-ops in the world had a total turnover of US$1,1 trillion (R8,8 trillion), comparable to the gross domestic product (GDP) of many large countries.

In Brazil in 2009, co-ops provided 37,2% of agricultural GDP and 5,4% of overall GDP, and earned about US$3,6 billion (R29 billion) from exports. – Staff reporter