The International Year of Cooperatives 2012

Cooperative enterprises: a key to transforming smallholder agriculture into a profitable business

Cooperative enterprises: a key to transforming smallholder agriculture into a profitable businessOver the past years international development organizations and governments have shown a renewed interest in cooperatives as autonomous, jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprises that can contribute to the development of smallholder agriculture. Agricultural cooperatives can be instrumental in addressing some of the challenges facing smallholder producers –  such as galvanizing collective action to benefit from economies of scale and efficiency gains along the value chains.

The United Nations declared 2012 the International Year of Cooperatives (IYC) in order to raise awareness of the important contribution of cooperatives to global socio-economic development and to promote the growth and strengthening of cooperatives all over the world.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and World Food Programme (WFP) have joined forces to promote rural organizations, including agricultural cooperatives, throughout the IYC to ensure that they remain high on the international development agenda.

Cooperative enterprises enhance market-oriented smallholder agriculture

Producer organizations, including agricultural cooperatives, play an important role in supporting smallholder farmers, livestock keepers, and fisher folk. They enable small-scale producers to better take advantage of opportunities offered in the market place and to make better use of the natural resources base. Some of the services they offer to their members include access to agricultural inputs, credit, training, storage facilities and agro-technology. By mediating access to these important services, cooperatives have great potential to transform smallholder farming into a profitable enterprise. Cooperatives also give smallholder farmers a voice in decision-making processes at all levels. They also represent a powerful means of supporting marginalized groups, such as youth and women. Indeed, cooperatives are now adopting innovative approaches and tools (such as weather index insurance schemes)  that have proved to be highly resilient to economic and environmental shocks.

Objectives of the event

This event brings together representatives of producer and agricultural development organizations, cooperative associations, and the UN agencies, to reflect upon the important role that agricultural cooperatives can play in enhancing smallholder farmers' entrepreneurship skills to enable them integrate themselves into the value chain. It will also provide an opportunity to share experiences on successful cooperative enterprises that have transformed smallholder agriculture into profitable businesses that can contribute to generating employment. The discussants will also present a number of global initiatives such as the IYC and the ‘Grow Co-operatives' campaign, which are promoting increased international support to agricultural cooperatives.

Expected outcomes

  • Sharing of successful experiences of smallholder-driven agriculture cooperatives;
  • Joint action on how to best support agricultural cooperatives in the context of the IYC;
  • Possible partnerships between FAO/IFAD/WFP and participant organizations to support the development of agricultural cooperatives.



Welcome and introduction by Nora Ourabah Haddad on behalf of FAO/IFAD/WFP


Panel discussion moderated by Sarah Longford, WFP

  • Gilbert Manigabe, Rwanda Coffe Cooperatives Federation
  • Vardan Hambardzumyan, Federation of Agricultural Associations – Union of Legal Entities
  • Jur Schuurman, Agriterra, the Netherlands
  • Hannah Newcomb, Cooperative Group, United Kingdom

Questions and Answers


Wrap-up, conclusions and closing statements