Agricultural Cooperatives: Key to Feeding the World
By Brendan Rice and Thaelon Tremain


This year’s World Food Day theme is “Agricultural cooperatives – key to feeding the world.” The official World Food Day theme, announced each spring by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), gives focus to World Food Day observances and raises awareness and understanding of approaches to ending hunger.

Cooperatives are an important piece of achieving food security for all. 70 percent of those who face hunger live in rural areas where agriculture serves as the economic mainstay. Smallholder farmers are central to addressing hunger, yet many face barriers such as a lack of infrastructure, outdated farming practices, and a lack of access to financial services.  Cooperatives improve farmers’ agricultural productivity and equip them with access to marketing, savings, credit, insurance, and technology. Farmer cooperatives serve both to connect farmers to markets and to increase food production.

Supporting smallholder farmers enhances global food security and reduces poverty. Cooperatives link smallholder farmers to markets by aggregating their product, facilitating the adoption of new technologies and inputs, encouraging greater productivity and crop diversification, and providing a platform for smallholder producers in decisions that affect their livelihoods.

It is estimated that 1 billion individuals are members of cooperatives worldwide, generating more than 100 million jobs around the world. In agriculture, forestry, fishing and livestock keeping, members participate in production, profit-sharing, cost-saving, risk-sharing and income-generating activities, which lead to better bargaining power for members as buyers and sellers in the marketplace.

One example based in California, Pachamama Coffee Cooperative of Small-Scale Coffee Producers (“Pacha”), is a unique global cooperative that is wholly-owned and controlled by small-scale coffee farmers around the world. Comprising five member cooperatives, Pacha represents tens of thousands of families in Peru, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico and Ethiopia. Following organic growing principles, the farmers are also concerned with environmental sustainability and the impact of coffee production on the health of surrounding ecosystems.  Member cooperatives are also involved in restoration, activities to prevent pollution of waterways and wildlife conservation.  

The family farmers attribute their success to the ownership structure of the cooperative business model, which enables them to invest in more value-added activities, such as marketing a "farmer-owned" brand in the USA and setting the price of their own premium coffees.  By pooling the resources of thousands of small farmers and linking them directly to consumer markets, Pachamama is able to pay farmers more for their crop while providing a valuable marketing platform that farmers own and control.

Good things happen when people believe in themselves and get organized. On World Food Day 2012, let us resolve to give cooperatives a helping hand, enabling them to overcome constraints and to play their full role in the drive to end hunger and poverty. This World Food Day, learn more about the importance of agricultural cooperatives by visiting FAO’s World Food Day site or the U.N.’s International year of the Cooperative page. More in depth information can be found in FAO’s issue brief on agricultural cooperatives.


Special thanks to Thaelon Tremain, President of Pachamama Coffee Cooperative and Brendan Rice, World Food Day Intern at the Food and Agriculture Organization who collaborated on this article. This piece is cross-posted on the Landscape for People, Food and Nature Initiative Blog.

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@BeyondGreen_sfp tweeted link to this page. 2012-10-24 15:35:35 -0400
@foodday2012 Theme: Agricultural #Cooperatives. Find out how they improve our #food systems. #WFD2012
@ATBagriculture tweeted link to this page. 2012-10-16 19:16:16 -0400
Agricultural Cooperatives: Key to Feeding the World
@nt_factor tweeted link to this page. 2012-10-16 11:06:36 -0400
Agricultural Cooperatives: Key to Feeding the World
@Senninger_Irrig tweeted link to this page. 2012-10-16 08:20:42 -0400
Today is World Food Day & the theme is “Agricultural cooperatives-key to feeding the world”— #WFD2012
@lindaperrybarr tweeted link to this page. 2012-10-16 00:07:11 -0400
Tues is World Food Day. The focus is on agricultural coops as the best bet to end world hunger.