On World Food Day, Supporting Agricultural Cooperatives in the Fight against Hunger and Poverty

Some one billion people belong to cooperatives in nearly 100 countries worldwide guarding consumers, producers, and workers against hunger, bankruptcy, and rights abuses. Agricultural cooperatives help farmers access and share information, get fair prices for their goods, and participate in local decision making. This October 16, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) will celebrate “Agricultural Cooperatives: Key to Feeding the World” for World Food Day.

Agricultural cooperatives are part of a larger movement to make food more environmentally and socially just and sustainable. Agroecological practices enrich soils, improve yields, increase incomes, and support the people, animals, plants, and entire ecosystems affected by agriculture.

An infographic released recently by the Christensen Fund highlights how industrial agricultural practices—including raising meat in factory farms, adding pesticides and chemical fertilizers to fields, and shipping food to markets across the globe—contributes to increased incidences of chronic diseases and severe air and water pollution.

By contrast, agroecological practices—including composting and agroforestry, conserving wildlife habitats, and selling products within a localized food system—can build resilience to climate change, increase nutritional and biological diversity, and double or triple agricultural yields over the long term.

Agricultural cooperatives and agroecological practices go hand-in-hand to support a more sustainable food system. By encouraging worker empowerment, farmer training, and consumer awareness, this year’s World Food Day theme is showcasing one of the most promising elements of a more sustainable food system.

World Food Day is a global day of action against hunger. FAO suggests a variety of ways you can become involved in the day of action, including:

  • Host a World Food Day meal: As part of its GROW Method, OxfamAmerica promotes 5 very simple actions to help create a better food system: save food, eat seasonally and locally, eat less meat and dairy, support small farmers, and cook smart. If you sign up to host a meal, OxfamAmerica will send you everything you need to host a great event: free World Food Day recipe cards from famous chefs, placemats, videos, and more.
  • Join your local hunger coalition: The Alliance to End Hunger has created the Hunger Free Communities Network, an online platform for coalitions, campaigns, and individuals committed to ending hunger in their local communities.
  • Activate a school campus: Why Care? is a student-led campaign of Universities Fighting World Hunger to spark a global conversation about hunger and to build momentum to World Food Day campus events. The campaign offers several simple suggestions on how to spread the word about world hunger on a campus.
  • Arrange a food and fund drive: The World Food Day website can help you find your nearby food bank or pantry, and gives tips on donating food or funds to maximize your positive impact.

 Danielle Nierenberg and Laura ReynoldsNourishing the Planet | October 15, 2012

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