World Food Day Colloquium at Hohenheim University (Stuttgart/Germany).
Photo: FSC

01.11.2012

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The role cooperatives play in food security was the focus of this year’s UN World Food Day celebrated every year on 16 October. The Food Security Center (FSC) at Hohenheim University (Stuttgart/Germany) conducted a World Food Day Colloquium where scientists and practitioners discussed how politics can return to promoting cooperatives in order to create better opportunities for the future, especially for small-scale farmers.

The cooperative movement is firmly mainstreamed in Germany and its neighbouring countries. Its roots go back to initiatives by Wilhelm Raiffeisen and Hermann Schulze-Delitzsch in the middle of the 19th century.  When poverty was spreading in rural areas during the era of industrialisation, they promoted cooperation among small farms, initially by savings and credit unions, and later through production cooperatives. In this way, farmers were able to regain access to markets and production inputs and also became connected to the national economy.  Former EU agricultural commissioner Franz Fischler recalled this success story in his keynote speech to an audience of some 300 participants attending the Food Security Center (FSC) Colloquium in Stuttgart-Hohenheim, Germany, on 16 October 2012.

Similar to the situation in Europe 250 years ago, today it is the small farmers in developing countries who have fallen behind, especially because of the commercialisation of agriculture, warned Fischler.  Yet it is just these small farming units - Fischler put the figure at 500 million small farmers – that are helping secure food for the world’s population.

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