Farming Progress through Cooperatives

The development of rural areas is central to overcoming hunger and poverty, mitigating climate change, achieving energy security and protecting the environment, providing employment to the youth and it is the smallholder farmer that holds the key. For them to succeed, we must seriously start investing in their potential to support them to deliver.

The 16th of October marks the 67th year since the inception of World Food Day by Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). The theme for this year is "Agricultural cooperatives - key to feeding the world"

As the world marks this important day in the food security calendar, it is important to note that the world's current food system is failing to meet the world's nutritional needs. The media around the world is filled with reports of famine, drought and deaths resulting from hunger. To date over 1 billion of the world's population is food insecure with a majority living in the rural areas.

"We have a responsibility to empower in a meaningful way. This enables people to take responsibility and contribute to their own state of being. This means really reviewing the way in which we seek to deliver development, and the way we seek to deliver agricultural production", this was noted by ACORD's Ousainou Ngum during World Food Day breakfast meeting held in Nairobi on 10th October 2012.

Case studies by ACORD and its partners have shown that when small-scale farmers work within cooperatives or smallholder farmer associations with structured support systems, there exists unlimited potential for them to play a key role in overcoming hunger and poverty. In this regard, there is need to facilitate their entry into farmers' groups and cooperatives for there to be meaningful transformation in agriculture.

Mr. Ousainou Ngum of ACORD speaking during World Food Day breakfast meeting in Nairobi.
Photo by Eric Kimani.

Cooperatives have become one of the tools of agricultural development in emerging countries. They often emerge in situations where farmers cannot obtain or individually afford essential services from commercial entities. Cooperatives strive to maximize the benefits they generate for their members which involve zero-profit operation.

Effective and efficient functioning agricultural cooperatives are therefore central to rural development and by extension elimination of hunger and poverty. It is important that the local and national governments and civil society organizations (CSOs) play their role in mobilizing and supporting small-scale farmers to organize. However, this must go hand in hand with infrastructure development in order to achieve greater results and ensure sustainability.

"Agriculture including farming, forestry, fishery and livestock is the main source of employment and income in rural areas, where the majority of the world's poor and hungry people live", this was emphasised by Mr. Seno Nyakenyanya, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Cooperative Development and Marketing, during the World Food Day Breakfast meeting.

"Agricultural cooperatives play an important role in supporting small agricultural producers and marginalised groups such as young people and women. They empower their members economically and socially and create sustainable rural employment through business models that are more resilient to economic and environmental shocks"

"Knowledge as a Tool for Agricultural Development"

To effectively respond to the issue of food insecurity, ACORD under its Pan-African Agriculture Program supports the implementation of The Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and the Policy Framework for Pastoralism in Africa (PFPA) whose aim is to achieve 6% growth per year in the agricultural sector throughout Africa by 2015. To ensure that both the CAADP and the PFPA implementation process adequately address and respond to the needs of African communities, ACORD facilitates active participation of small-holder farmers and pastoralists, especially women in national processes linked to CAADP implementation.

Without their active and meaningful engagement, gaps in understanding the reality and context of implementation of the important continental policy frameworks will persist. In addition, local buy-in and ownership will be absent, and as a result, the goals for CAADP and PFPA will not be met. To this end ACORD contributes to enhancing farmers knowledge on pertinent agricultural policies, information and practices in order to address issues related to their livelihoods. The ultimate aim is to facilitate increased representation of small- holder farmers and pastoralists groups and their members into the CAADP and PFPA implementation process at national and regional levels.

Through its networks and collaboration with regional NGO partners, ACORD ensures that the information and knowledge acquired through training is disseminated and is used by the farmers and pastoralists at local level. Farmer and pastoralist organisations are also supported to deliver short courses, workshops, on-site coaching, peer-to-peer learning to their members and to disseminate information on agricultural policies, livestock and crop production, marketing, land and water management.

ACORD believes in citizens' abilities to transforming the agricultural sector for the benefit of the larger African society; this belief underpins its investments in empowering farmers and pastoralists with needed knowledge, skills and techniques enabling them to lead the much needed change in African agriculture.

Additional resources:
Watch: CAADP educational television spot
Read more: Agriculture and food security in Africa
Read more: Zambia: Building Partnerships for CAADP Success

  • agriculture
  • food security
  • food sovereignty