World Food Day 2012: agricultural cooperatives

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October 16th was World Food Day! World Food Day was started to mark the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, dedicated to ensuring people all over the world have access to safe and healthy food. The theme of this year’s World Food Day is Agricultural Cooperatives: key to feeding the world.

So, what is an agricultural cooperative? It is like any other cooperative, but the membership is typically made up of agricultural producers, or farmers. The Food and Agriculture Organization defines it as “any member-owned enterprise run on democratic principles.” Indeed, voluntary open membership, democratic member control, and economic participation in the cooperative are three of seven commonly held cooperative principles, outlined here.

To learn more about agricultural cooperatives, watch this video:

A cooperative model is important for small farmers worldwide for a variety of reasons. Cooperating with other farmers in an area by pooling economic resources can help farmers secure land and equipment they would not otherwise be able to get. It can also help them build their own capacity through training opportunities in financial management and farming techniques. Finally, being part of a cooperative increases their ability to advocate for themselves worldwide; one small farmer will have a tough time gaining direct access to international markets, but many small farmers with one voice can improve all of their situations.

The Food and Agriculture Organization believes that Agricultural Cooperatives are the key to feeding the world, and they do have many benefits. Helping small farmers means helping the communities around them. When small farmers earn more money, they tend to re-invest in their communities and everyone benefits. We see this frequently at the food hamper program–many of our regular food donors are small local farmers who want to make a difference in their community.

If you want to get involved in discussing World Food Day in the Canadian context, Food Banks Canada is hosting a twitter discussion. All you have to do is sign in today between noon and 12:30, 6:00 and 6:30, or 9:00 and 9:30. Follow @foodbankscanada to join the discussion.

Also of note, the Food Bank of Waterloo Region is participating in the Great Canadian Food Fight! Give food at your local grocery store and other locations as we compete against other communities in Canada to have the most food donated. Watch the video below to see what it’s all about.

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