FAO opened a new liaison office for cooperatives and producer organizations today in order to revitalize the Organization's collaboration with these organizations worldwide.
The opening comes a few days after the International Day of Cooperatives, celebrated on Saturday, July 7.
"We are confident that this liaison office will allow cooperatives and producer organizations to have a stronger voice as FAO's key partners in ending hunger and poverty," said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva at the opening ceremony, which was attended by representatives of the International Cooperative Alliance and the World Farmers Organization .
"Cooperatives and producer organizations have a key role to play in bringing about a future without hunger," he said. "Standing alone, a smallholder has fewer opportunities. When farmers get together, they have better condition to negotiate of price and better access to assets and services such as information, communication, input and output markets, natural resources, from local to international levels."
FAO in partnership with producer organizations and cooperatives will continue to encourage governments to establish favourable policies, legal frameworks, economic incentives and participatory processes in which agricultural and food cooperatives as well as producer organizations develop and become strong, equitable and efficient enterprises.
In 2011 alone, more than 180 FAO programmes and projects in over 100 countries in the world, helped to build and strengthen the capacities of producer organizations, cooperatives and local community groups to reach their organizational goals.
A revamped website on FAO partnerships including producer groups and cooperatives is now online.
Agricultural cooperatives are already powerful in many countries. They play a significant socio-economic role in terms of livelihoods, income generation and social inclusion.
In Brazil, cooperatives were responsible for 37.2 percent of agricultural GDP and 5.4 percent of overall GDP in 2009, and earned about $3.6 billion from exports. In Mauritius, cooperatives account for more than 60 percent of national production in the food crop sector and in Kenya the savings and credit cooperatives have assets worth $2.7 billion, which account for 31 percent of gross national savings. In Egypt 4 million farmers earned their income from membership in agricultural cooperatives, and in India 16.5 million liters of milk are collected from 12 million dairy farmers daily, most of which are women.
In 2012, the UN celebrates the International Year of Cooperatives, while World Food Day, held each year on 16 October, has as its 2012 theme: Agricultural cooperatives - key to feeding the world.