Co-ops Promote Food Security & Contribute to the World Food Summit

   This document has been made available in electronic format
           by the International Co-operative Alliance.

       International Day of Co-operatives, 6 July 1996

                                             Background Note #3
 The Role of the Co-operative Movement in Promoting Food Security 
  and in Contributing to the World Food Summit and its Follow-up


People's organizations play a crucial role in contributing to food
security, sustainable agriculture and rural development. 
Agricultural producers (farmers, agricultural co-operatives and
other farmer organizations) are the key to ensuring food
availability.  Consumer and workers' organizations are needed to
ensure food distribution, and enterprises are needed to provide
employment so as to allow the purchasing of food.  The multifaceted
character of food security, require actions at various levels and
with co-operation and partnership between governments and
representative organizations such as co-operatives and other
farmers~ organizations.

The International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) is an organization
which regroups co-operatives of all sectors of activity.  Nearly
forty percent of its member organizations are active in the
agricultural and fisheries sector as producers and suppliers of
agricultural/fishery inputs and another 25 percent are involved in
consumer activities.  The ICA membership and indeed the
co-operative movement as a whole has a vital role to play in
contributing to food security.  

Agricultural co-operatives already constitute an important and
significant force within the agricultural sector.  In 1994 it was
estimated that agricultural co-operatives were responsible for US$
452 billion worth of production.  Agricultural co-operatives are
also contributing to national self-reliance with many producing the
bulk of traditional/staple foods for domestic consumption.  For
example farmers' co-operatives are responsible for 100 percent of
the potato production in Panama, in Nicaragua 78 percent of maize
and 59 percent of bean production, and domestic rice production in
Japan is predominately from agricultural co-operatives.  In Burkina
Faso ten agricultural co-operatives produced 12-15 percent of the
national rice  requirement representing a savings on agricultural
imports of nearly US$ 4 million.  Agricultural co-operatives are
also important providers of export crops; for example the Danish
Co-operative Movement exports 66 percent of its agricultural
production; in Cote d'Ivoire GVCs and co-operatives market 82
percent of the total cotton production, nearly 30 percent of cocoa
and 20 percent of the coffee production for export.  Agricultural
supply and marketing co-operatives are also of major importance to
a variety of countries; for example in Niger, the Centre
d'approvisionnement, a co-operative society, managed agricultural
inputs amounting to US$ 1,609,622 (1991); in Indonesia, 77 percent
of fertilizer is marketed by co-operatives;  in India milk
co-operatives marketed agricultural produce worth US$ 1,953
million; in Tunisia 60 percent of the milk production was marketed
by co-operatives.

Consumer co-operatives too contribute to food security by making
food available in urban as well as rural areas ~ food that is safe,
high quality and also reasonably priced to ensure access by as many
members of the society as possible. 

Co-operatives in all sectors of economic activity contribute to one
important factor in ensuring food security - income.  As noted in
the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action of the World
Summit for Social Development, co-operatives generate productive
employment 1/. One example comes from Cote d'Ivoire where it is
estimated that co-operatives, especially agricultural co-
operatives, have paid over US$ 1 million in salaries to employees.

Finally, co-operatives have, on their own initiative, recognized
the importance of the food security issue.  Co-operative leaders in
Asia recently met to discuss the role of agricultural co-operatives
and food security with particular attention to the Asia region. 
The Asian Agricultural Co-operative Top Leaders' Conference
organized by the Japanese agricultural movement was held in
November, 1995.  It presented an appeal to the APEC Forum Meeting
which notes that the co-operative form of business organization is
widely used as a vehicle for small and medium-sized enterprise
development, particularly in the agricultural sector.  It further
notes that agricultural co-operatives have played a vital role in
generating food supplies for the increasing population.  It calls
on APEC members to "...encourage the development of co-operatives
where appropriate, particularly in the agricultural sector".

Given the already important role that the co-operative movement is
playing in contributing to food security, the ICA has been present
in the process leading up to the World Food Summit.  Its membership
is ideally placed to identify areas which require attention by
governments in partnership with farmers and their organizations. 
If agricultural producers are to continue to increase yields and
availability of food stuffs, issues such as infrastructure - land
tenure, access to credit, legislation, transport, energy, etc.;
macroeconomic policies - structural adjustment and trade issues;
and policy environments including political and economic stability,
fair prices for agricultural products etc. must be addressed
through regular dialogue and consultation at all levels, but most
importantly between government and farmers and their organizations.
People's organizations such as co-operatives and farmers'
organizations must be included as an integral part of decision-
making on the issues that effect their livelihoods, and global food

             Examples of ICA Activities Undertaken 
                 to Contribute to Food Security


In 1995, at the ICA Centennial Congress in Manchester, ICA member
organizations committed themselves to promoting sustainable
development and adopted their guidelines for action.  Co-operative
Agenda 21 identifies on a sectoral basis objectives and methods for
promoting sustainable development.2/ The co-operative movement
members of the ICA pledged to promote sustainable agricultural
development; assure food security; promote the conservation of
plant and animal genetic resources; and promote land and water

The global Training Project for Leaders of Fisheries Co-operatives
is being implemented by the ICA Fisheries Committee with the
financial support of Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and
Forestry of the Government of Japan.  The programme trains fishery
co-operative leaders to improve the efficiency of their co-
operatives through technical training on fish capture techniques,
storage issues to prevent waste and spoilage, processing and
marketing as well as awareness building on issues such as
appropriate technology, sustainable fisheries, and export trade.
Two seminars are held yearly and have addressed issues such as
Development of Fish Farming (Czech Republic); Improvement of the
Standard of Living of Artisanal Fishermen (Sustainable Fishery
Development) (Chile); Restructuring Fishery Co-operatives in
Central America (Costa Rica); Development of Co-operation,
Production and Marketing in Fisheries and Fish Production Related
Co-operatives (Hungary); Empowering Women through Fishery Co-
operatives (India); Promotion of the Development of Fishery Co-
operatives: Prawn Breeding and Technology (Malaysia) and 
Sustainable Development and Conservation of Fishery Resources
(Vietnam). Seminars have also been held in Bangladesh, Colombia,
Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Philippines and Thailand.


The ICA Regional Office for West Africa (ROWA) located in Abidjan
(Cote d'Ivoire) has been the most active within the ICA structure
in implementing activities contributing to food security at the
local and national level. Membership in the region is primarily
agricultural with eleven of the fourteen member organizations being
agricultural unions or federations. Other sectors represented
include savings and credit, health and training and education. 

The support provided by ROWA to the emergence of new apex co-
operative organizations is one important contribution to food
security. For example:

*    Cape Verde 

Since 1990, ROWA has been assisting the Federation of Consumer Co-
operatives FENACOOP in Cape Verde.  The services provided by
FENACOOP benefit nearly 30 percent of the population with the
majority located in rural areas. FENACOOP makes agricultural inputs
available (fertilizer and seeds) in rural areas and during famine
and natural disasters has been used to channel food aid. 

*  Cote d'Ivoire

The two regional agricultural unions have been provided assistance
to establish an apex organization.  Together they regroup 827,395
small farmers and have been able to be active and significant
actors in the negotiation of fertilizer purchasing and sale.

ROWA also provides assistance for the consolidation of co-operative
organizations through the development of human resources.  All
fourteen member organizations have benefited from the programmes. 
Since 1990, over 5,300 co-operators have participated in the
training programmes and study trips organized with the support of
ROWA which have had positive impacts on trade, improved management
capacity and efficiency, reduction of agricultural losses, and
higher levels of revenue for the co-operatives and their individual
members.  Training programmes focused on issues such as food
production and processing, agricultural liberalization and the
resulting challenges and risks to co-operatives.

The participation of women in co-operatives has also been addressed
by ROWA as means to improve their economic situation and
contribution to food security.  The programme undertaken supports
and facilitates the participation of women in co-operatives through
the funding of training (management, organization, equipment
maintenance) and income generating activities through micro-
investments; saving and guarantee funds for credit, etc.  Examples

*    Senegal
     Sixty-five leaders from 13 women's groups of the Co-operative
     Union of Senegal (UNCAS) who are involved in the production
     and marketing of horticultural products have been provided
     training enabling them to form small savings and credit co-
     operatives. Approximately 380 rural women have been implicated
     in the project.  Access to credit has enabled rural women to
     buy agricultural inputs.  Training provided by ROWA assistance
     has also included information on nutrition and child health.

*    Benin
     The programme in Benin consists of providing access to small
     credit for village market women (US$ 20) through the
     Federation des Caisses de Credit Agricole FECECAM. The
     revolving fund began in 1994 with US$ 4,000 to assist 200
     women. Today the revolving loan fund stands at US$ 95,800 and
     is providing access to credit to nearly 1,700 women. 
     Approximately 90 percent of the women use the credit to buy
     and sell food crops at village level.

*    Burkina Faso
     The ROWA programme provided the Tanlili women's group with a
     cereal mill and training.  Not only did the mill alleviate
     their work burden, it allowed them to sell their production
     and build up savings which were deposited in the Caisse
     Populaire of Cissin.  The Caisse then provided small loans to
     women for small scale trade of food crops.  Similar
     initiatives have also been take in Niger and Senegal.

In addition, ROWA has collaborated regularly with the Food and
Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) on a number of
initiatives which have had impacts on improving food security. 
These are briefly listed for information.

1990 ROWA/FAO Study to identify and analyze the production,
     processing and marketing potential of women's groupings in the
     foodstuff sector in Cte d'Ivoire.

1991 ROWA/FAO/DSE Case studies in Guinea (Conakry), Cote d'Ivoire,
     Benin and Niger to assess the co-operative movement and other
     rural organizations in order to determine whether the
     Appropriate System of Management for Small Farmers' Co-
     operatives (AMSAC) could be applicable.

1992 Follow-up to 1991 case studies.  ROWA/FAO Regional Workshop on
     Prospects of Assistance to Co-operatives and Other Rural
     Organizations in West Africa based on the AMSAC Approach

1993 ROWA/FAO Study to analyze and identify appropriate strategy to
     promote rural co-operatives for small farmers in West Africa.

1994 FAO contracted ROWA as consultant to analyze the situation of
     farmers' organizations in Guinea (Conakry) and identify
     possible government support strategy.  This led to the
     elaboration of a policy document, training programmes and the
     drafting of terms of reference for new co-operative

1995 ROWA/FAO Regional bi-lingual Workshop Seminar on Rural Women
     in Co-operatives.


The ICA Regional Office for the Americas (ROAM) has focused on the
following priority areas as identified by their membership:
business opportunities including trade facilitation and the
formation of strategic alliances between co-operatives; human
resource development including gender; and co-operative values and

The activities under the business component of the programme
contribute to improving the managerial and operational efficiency
of co-operatives and thus to their ability to produce, process and
market their products.  The effects of structural adjustment
programmes and liberalization policies are presented as
opportunities for co-operatives, underlining the need for increased
performance and new productive capacities (the "reconversion
programme"). Under the strategic planning component of the
programme, co-operatives are trained to analyze their internal
operations and are familiarized with a variety of innovative
management and marketing techniques.  Seminars were held for co-
operatives in all sectors of activity with emphasis on
agricultural, fisheries and industrial co-operatives. 

A series of publications "Doing Business with Co-operatives" are
being prepared by ROAM. These provide information by country on the
status of co-operatives and the opportunities for trade and mutual
collaboration.  Each of the publications includes a review of the
agricultural co-operative sector highlighting both strengths and
weakness, with examples of how agricultural co-operatives have
responded to new challenges.  For example, the building of
"strategic alliances" between agricultural co-operatives: 

*    El Salvador
     Sixty-seven coffee growing co-operatives in El Salvador and
     thirty-one Honduran palm oil processing co-operatives joined
     together to form a co-operative association to energize
     regional trade.  The organic coffee produced by the
     Salvadorean co-operatives and the other agro-industrial
     products will be marketed by the Honduran co-operative
     structures and vice-versa, lard, margarine, oil and by-
     products for industrial use will be marketed in El Salvador.3/

Presently, studies have been completed for Colombia  Costa Rica, El
Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Uruguay with the
financial assistance of the Swedish Co-operative Centre (SCC) and
the Societe de Developpement International Desjardins (DID). It is
expected that further studies will be prepared for Bolivia, Chile,
Ecuador, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and  Venezuela.

It should be noted that past collaboration with FAO in 1990 and
1992 has included an ICA/FAO survey of agricultural co-operatives
in Central America on which the present programme for agricultural
co-operative competitiveness has been built and expanded.

ROAM has also implemented a gender programme which today is
incorporated with the Human Resource Development Programme.  In the
early 1990's the Gender Programme worked with women to integrate
them into existing co-operatives and promote new co-operatives
which would better serve the needs of rural women.  Revolving loans
were established to assist rural women establish income-generating
activities.  One example of the activities supported by the project
was in a rural indigenous community in Guatemala.  Women were able
to obtain access to credit to allow them to start up a poultry
producing co-operative which are marketed on a nearby local market. 
The programme has also focused much attention on the need to
integrate women in co-operatives in order to make them more
competitive, i.e. being able to fully use the expertise that women
can bring for example to agricultural, fisheries and consumer co-

Today the HRD programme assists co-operatives in the region take
advantage of the opportunities presented by the liberalized
economy.  Emphasis is placed on information and training -
especially market information and such tools as the Internet which
can assist to make co-operatives more competitive and meet local,
national and international needs. 


The ICA Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (ROAP) located in
New Delhi (India) implements an Agricultural Co-operative
Development Project, funded by ICA member organizations in the
region with the assistance of the Swedish Co-operative Centre
(SCC), whose aim is to promote new and strengthen existing
agricultural co-operatives through management training, development
of agro-processing and marketing systems, facilitate exchange of
experience especially appropriate technology, strengthen trade and
information systems.

Project activities include the holding of regional seminars
targeted at co-operative leaders and managers and aimed at
improving the performance of agricultural co-operatives in the
region, by addressing issues of development strategies, farm
inputs, credit and banking, agricultural co-operative marketing,
agro-processing, livestock marketing, and trade facilitation.  

Other training initiatives in which ROAP is involved include the
joint ICA ROAP/IDACA training programmes for co-operative leaders
and managers held at the Institute for the Development of
Agricultural Co-operative in Asia established in 1974 by the
Central Union of Agricultural Co-operatives of Japan (JA ZENCHU);
and a training programme for agricultural co-operative leaders
funded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry of
the Government of Japan.  The programme which began in 1986 has
trained 15 co-operative leaders yearly in intensive six month
courses.  The Training Programme for Rural Women Leader was
initiated in 1991 and trains six women leaders from agricultural
co-operatives on a yearly basis.  Both programmes focus on
management skills to improve the efficiency of agricultural co-
operatives.  Each also includes study visits to agricultural co-
operatives in the region.


The Plan of Action focuses on the variety and multi-faceted
character of food security.  It identifies actions that
governments, international organizations and the civil society must
take in order to ensure food security.  However, it fails to
adequately recognize the advances made by the agricultural sector
in the past twenty years.  According to the FAO publication, World
Agriculture: Towards 2010 in the mid 1960's the world's hungry was
estimated at 950 million people.  Today, despite the doubling of
the world's population, we are faced with 800 million people who
are suffering from hunger.  Agricultural producers have responded
to the challenge and will continue to do so to continue to reduce
the intolerably high number of people still faced with insufficient
food.  Production must increase, but more importantly distribution
systems, policies controlling trade and agricultural development
must also meet the demands of increased production.

For this reason the co-operative movement must stress that all
actions taken to combat food insecurity and undernutrition will
require the participation of farmers, co-operatives and other
farmer organizations.  Given their primordial role in food
security, farmers, co-operatives and other farmer organizations
must be mentioned in the text of the Draft Plan of Action to
Achieve Universal Food Security. 


1/   Programme of Action of the World Summit for Social
     Development.  para 51 (e).
2/   Co-operative Agenda 21 in Review of International Co-
     operation, Vol. 88, no. 3, pp 53-54.
3/   ICA/SCC/DID.  Doing Business with Co-operatives in El
     Salvador: A practical guide for investors, businessmen and co-
     operatives. pg. 25.