Our Story

First, A Word about Our Name

The name ACDI/VOCA dates back to the 1997 merger of Agricultural Cooperative Development International and Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance. Both were nonprofit international economic development organizations founded by the U.S. cooperative community.

The merger achieved new economies of scale and blended the complementary strengths of ACDI’s long-term development approaches and VOCA’s people-to-people volunteer activities. Today we dispense with the long version of our name and use only the acronym (pronounced A-C-D-I-Vōca).

Expanding Opportunities Worldwide Since 1963

Learn more about milestone programs in our history:

Founding and History

Cooperative Roots

ACDI (first known as the International Cooperative Development Association) was formed in 1963 by major U.S. farm cooperatives. It was inspired by the Humphrey Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, which provided an important role for cooperatives in the country’s growing foreign aid program. ACDI membership soon included farm credit banks.

The organization’s principal objective was “to plan…and provide management for cooperative economic enterprises…in those foreign countries that are objects of the foreign aid program of the United States.” ACDI helped develop cooperatives around the world that reflected the merits of joint ownership, democratic governance, and economic advantage.

Major successes included helping to found the Indian Farmers Fertilizer Cooperative (IFFCO), today Asia's largest fertilizer concern, re-establishing cooperative banking in Poland, carrying out programs financed by food aid monetization in Uganda, Cape Verde, Rwanda, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan, and setting up vast business-oriented farmer organizations in Ethiopia and Malawi.

ACDI eventually grew away from an exclusive co-op focus, though cooperative approaches to development continued to figure prominently in its portfolio. Its focus turned toward comprehensive economic development approaches in the fields of agricultural development and food security; value chain-oriented enterprise development and poverty alleviation; access to financial services; farmer organization; self-help community development; and efforts to stabilize fragile states, among other competencies.

Volunteer Expertise

VOCA (known at inception as the Volunteer Development Corps) was established in 1970 to provide volunteer assistance in developing countries. In 1983 its name was changed to VOCA.

In 1985 VOCA was the first implementer of the USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer program. All told, over 11,000 assignments have been carried out in more than 130 countries by highly qualified volunteer specialists. Most assignments provide short-term expertise to complement long-term development projects.

Volunteers have included bank presidents, beekeepers, coffee roasters, food processing experts, grain storage specialists, and business magnates. After the fall of the Soviet Union, a substantial number of assignments were carried out in Central and Eastern Europe and the Newly Independent States, in many cases providing entrepreneurs there with their first exposure to the dynamics of the private sector and modern commercial operations. Before she became secretary of agriculture and executive director of UNICEF, Ann Veneman advised Belarus on agriculture policy as an ACDI/VOCA volunteer.

ACDI/VOCA: A Nonprofit that Means Business

Today ACDI/VOCA is known as a nonprofit that means business. That is, it blends business and technical acumen with humanitarian concern. Having worked in 146 countries, it has established a reputation for implementing successful, large-scale projects addressing the most pressing and intractable development challenges. Its approach does not rely on short-term interventions or supply-driven technology transfer directed at single problems in isolation. Rather it looks at problems holistically and taps an array of resources to provide lasting results.

ACDI/VOCA receives funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the World Bank and various regional banks, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, private sector firms, ACDI/VOCA member cooperatives and farm credit banks, individuals, and other entities. It is affiliated with the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives and the Farm Credit Council.

Click here for information about ACDI/VOCA's current programming.

See where we work today.

1913-2013: 50 years of ACDI/VOCA.