For many poor people in the countryside, a work-intensive and vulnerable form of agriculture is the only way of life. To create sustainable local communities for coming generations, processing of raw materials must become more widespread, income bases must be expanded, farmers must acquire more stable market access, and more investments must be designed to improve the lot of small farmers.

Stronger together

In a cooperative, people join together in an effort to meet common economic, social and/or cultural needs. It is a matter of completing a task together, which would otherwise have to be done by each for himself or left to private actors or public institutions. Such cooperative arrangements as a rule have as their goal to maximize utility for their members, and must be democratically governed. They can improve the economy of farmers, who stand together and thus have more impact, but they can also assist members with advice and other services. Getting farmers organized is an important condition for reducing poverty, increasing food security, and supplying job opportunities.

Through organization and cooperation with private actors and financial institutions, farmers can negotiate better prices for their goods, reach out to new and larger markets outside the village, and avoid expensive middlemen. The organization of farmers in cooperatives or savings and loan groups may give access to economic resources, allowing farmers to invest in their own production or in other income sources. In this way, farmers acquire more opportunities to refine their products, and may be able to establish processing businesses that supply both income and work places.

It is also important that the agricultural sector attract more investments that benefit small farmers. In many cases, international or regional trade systems erect barriers against farmers’ access to markets and their sale of refined products.