Co-ops Instrumental in Driving Economies, Strengthening Communities
ACDI/VOCA joins the United Nations, its member states, cooperatives and civil society organizations worldwide to celebrate the International Year of Cooperatives 2012 by the United Nations General Assembly.
ACDI/VOCA’s cooperative development roots date to 1963 when U.S. farmer co-ops founded a predecessor of the organization to assist cooperatives in developing countries. ACDI/VOCA retains this strong commitment to helping rural households and for 48 years has helped millions of farmers and entrepreneurs help themselves using the cooperative model.
Cooperatives Build a Better World
ACDI/VOCA applauds the theme for 2012: “Cooperative Enterprises Build a Better World.” Worldwide, cooperatives are instrumental in driving economic, democratic and social development.
From the United States—where nearly 30,000 cooperatives account for more than $3 trillion in assets, $500 billion in revenue and 2 million jobs—to hillside coffee farms of Ethiopia, cooperatives enable producers and marketers to take charge of their destinies and gain economic efficiency, while also building markets and local communities.
Member Owned, Member Driven
Organized and controlled by the members who use their products or services, co-ops enable millions around the world to reap the benefits of joint business endeavors while maintaining their independence.
Cooperatives manifest the democratic principle of “one member, one vote” and positively influence the way entrepreneurs view problem solving.
They emphasize ground-up involvement, a commitment of local resources, transparent and sound business practices, education, leadership, and relevance to surrounding economic and political environments. These are important qualities as the international development agenda addresses challenges of localization, social inclusion, developing nascent democracies, addressing conflict and expanding free markets.
USAID Cooperative Development Program
In addition to incorporating cooperative development into many of its development projects, ACDI/VOCA is an implementer of USAID’s Cooperative Development Program (CDP).
ACDI/VOCA’s 2004-2010 program focuses on co-ops in Paraguay and East Africa and supports a cooperative development website (www.acdivocacoopex.org). ACDI/VOCA’s CDP priorities are to boost food security and economic growth. Read more about the current program.
Farmer Co-ops Boosts Food Security, Economic Growth
For resource-deprived smallholder farmers, a lack of access to markets, finance, information and technology hinders their ability to link into market growth opportunities and limits their ability to increase their income. Farmer cooperatives provide solutions to these challenges.
Evidence demonstrates their impact in linking smallholder farmers to markets through the aggregation of their product; facilitating the adoption of new technologies and inputs; encouraging greater productivity and crop diversification; and articulating the voice of smallholder producers in policy making.
A cooperative is “an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise” (International Cooperative Alliance). They are:
- User-owned—members finance the cooperative
- User-controlled—an elected board of directors serves as the link between the membership and the manager
- User-benefitting—patronage refunds are returned to members based on the amount to business conducted with the cooperatives
ACDI/VOCA does not develop a one-size-fits-all solution for smallholder farmers and entrepreneurs but rather tailors its approach to the needs of group members as well as the developmental and social context of the beneficiaries.
The programs that ACDI/VOCA champions are designed to stimulate, and not replace or deter, the expanding private sector in developing countries. The goal is a more vibrant, competitive and diverse market environment.