This World Food Day, October 16, celebrates the power of cooperatives.
“World Food Day provides another opportunity to take stock of the enduring—and growing—challenge of global hunger. There are no easy answers, but as an organization founded by U.S. farm cooperatives, ACDI/VOCA is proud to trumpet the theme of World Food Day 2012: ‘Agricultural Cooperatives: Key to Feeding the World,’” said Carl Leonard, president and CEO of ACDI/VOCA. “We know from almost 50 years of experience that co-ops are an effective way to bring efficiencies, information, scale and civil society benefits to the world’s vital smallholder producers, and organizing them for self-help is still central to our work today.”
By banding together in a co-op, farmers can buy inputs, like fertilizer and seed, directly from providers, saving expensive middleman costs. They can efficiently learn new techniques. They can share costs of storage or processing and bulk their crop to sell to larger companies who want products measured in tons not in bushels.
Whether in grain or coffee, cooperatives connect farmers to markets and to each other. Take the case of the Ferro coffee cooperative in Ethiopia. The Ferro co-op accomplished a remarkable feat when it connected its rural, smallholder farmers to the global market for specialty coffee, and the co-op’s dry-processed coffee was designated a Starbucks’ Black Apron Exclusive™. For these Ethiopian farmers, selling straight to the buyer meant careful processing and high quality were all-important. And it ultimately meant more—much more—revenue. Cooperatives, with their collective selling and purchasing power, can be the difference between hunger and feast.
“Without cooperatives,” said Asnake Bekele, general manager of the Sidama Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union, which represents 80,000 smallholders, “Ethiopian coffee growers would be out of the market.”
ACDI/VOCA, a nonprofit development organization, has its roots in cooperative development. It now has approximately 83 active projects in 38 countries around the world, 36 of which work with cooperatives.Infographic by ACDI/VOCA’s Kate Thomas.
Learn more about the transformative effect cooperatives can have for smallholder farmers.