Co-operative enterprises
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How are agricultural co-operatives making a difference in Brazil?

04 Jul 2017

A new report by the International Co-operative Agricultural Organisation (ICAO) looks at the state of agricultural co-ops in Brazil. The paper explores the role of the Organisation of Brazilian Cooperatives (OCB) in fostering a close relationship between co-ops and the Ministry of Agriculture.

Referred to as the “breadbasket of the world”, Brazil gets 50% of its food from the country’s 1,543 agricultural co-operatives. The co-operative sector employs 361,000 people while 6.2% of Brazilians are associated with a co-operative. Over 70% of the country’s food consumption is domestic. Furthermore, co-ops are responsible for more than USD $5.2bn in exports.

The OCB was founded in 1969 as the national trade body for co-ops. The organisation develops strategies and runs co-operative local organisations in each one of the 27 states in Brazil.

OCB provides smallholders members of co-ops with machinery and equipment as well as financial support through rural credit unions. While farmers focus on cultivating superior products, OCB member co-ops manage the logistics to ensure maximum quality.

Another role of the OCB is to lobby for legislation favourable to the co-operative sector and various action of the federal government has directly benefited co-ops. These include the permission to set up free accession co-operatives, permission to set up co-operatives of two or more categories for professionals or business groups and measures to enable credit co-operatives to operate at rural level.

One co-op making a difference in the semi-arid region of Rio Grande do Norte is Mossorró. The co-op offered agro-ecological technical assistance to members, helping them to grow crops in a sustainable manner. In addition, the co-operative channelled its efforts into improving water supply and is now providing treated water to more than 3,000 families across the regions. Learn more about other co-ops from ICAO’s report.

Photo: producers from Cooperacre, an agricultural co-op in Brazil.