Cooperatives, bringing progress against poverty across the world

17 Oct 2022

Cooperatives are uniquely placed to eradicate poverty and dignify people’s lives, as human-centred businesses that exist to meet the needs of their members. They subscribe to the seven cooperative principles that ensure open and voluntary membership, democratic control, autonomy and independence and concern for their community. Putting fairness, equality and social justice at the heart of the enterprise, cooperatives around the world are allowing people to work together to create sustainable enterprises that generate long-term jobs and prosperity.  Through the power of the collective, cooperators can share risk, make decisions together about the cooperative’s future, strengthen and hone their own skills and reinvest in their communities.

In their contribution towards eradication of poverty, cooperatives create employment opportunities by offering direct wage employment to people, self-employment to members and indirect employment through spillover of their income-generating activities. Based on data from 156 countries, the updated estimate shows that employment in or within the scope of cooperatives concerns at least 279.4 million people across the globe, in other words 9.46% of the world’s employed population (CICOPA, 2017).

Cooperatives have also been supporting their members to engage in income generating activities to uplift their livelihoods. For instance, Githunguri Dairy Farmers Cooperative Society in Kenya  has been supporting farmers to increase productivity through provision of essential services for dairy farming. They design farm input supply models that reliably get quality products at affordable prices and set-up milk collection centers that also serve as points of sale for farm inputs. They strive to ensure that they have lifted the livelihoods of their members and significantly transformed many smallholder farmers into some of the highest milk producers in the country and are able to meet their daily needs.  Because cooperatives exist in all regions of the world and all sectors of economy, there are many examples of how they contribute to the achievement of SDG 1 on eradicating poverty.

To mark this year's 30th UN International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, we have highlighted a few cases from the regions to share how cooperatives are contributing towards eradication of poverty.  

Cooperatives contributing to poverty eradication

Yilong county Cattle-raising Professional Cooperative Union, China

Being initially an association, the Sichuan Yilong County Rural Development Association was transformed into a county cooperative union to modernise the cattle-raising industry while bridging the cooperation between large-scale farmers and small household peasants.

The cooperative union provides knowledge and services on management, education, family finance, joint purchase and sale, home counseling and evaluation to members and farmers. Moreover, to protect disadvantaged small farmers, the union provides cattle raising funds for villages to support small households to buy cows.

The Yilong county Cattle-raising Professional Cooperative Union has developed into a new social and economic entity to revitalize rural industries and establish rural-urban cooperation through solidarity and cooperation.

Find more information about this cooperative union here.

COPRORIZ-Ntende, Rwanda

The COPRORIZ-Ntende cooperative has brought prosperity in Ntende (Rwanda) by improving agricultural techniques and business skills of farmers. Thanks to the collective work and improved well-being of farmers, the cooperative also contributed to restore social links after the genocide.

One of the successes of the cooperative has been the dynamic of investments in the same cooperative to improve the services to the members (e.g. financial services, health insurance, pension schemes; training) and expand the business model. In addition, the cooperative has facilitated access to market and supports members in case of a bad harvest.

Discover more about this cooperative in this #coops4dev and aroundtheworld.coop film and brief.

Manos de Uruguay, Uruguay

Manos del Uruguay is an artisan-led fashion producer, fair trade enterprise and brand made up and owned by 12 women’s producer cooperatives across Uruguay. It exists to serve these producers, prioritising the mission of providing livelihoods and personal development opportunities for rural women in Uruguay.

Profits are reinvested or redistributed to benefit the producers. Environmental impacts, the circular economy of supply chains, and product life cycles are considered by repurposing unused yarn and maintaining a small-scale supply chain. This model also considers the longer-term, optimised impact of its value creation. The Manos cooperative created the first kindergartens in Uruguay, providing childcare and creating improved educational opportunities for the artisans’ children.

Find more information on its website and on the report “Mind our business: Amplify the transformative power of sustainable and inclusive business models through EU external action” (page 18).

Ruah Cooperative, Italy

The Ruah Cooperative was founded in January 2009. It is a mixed cooperative, type A and B, which continued the activities of the Ruah Onlus Immigrant Community Association, founded in 1991, in collaboration with Caritas Diocesana Bergamasca to respond to the migratory emergency on the territory of Bergamo.

The Cooperative supports the human promotion of the community and the social integration of Italian and foreign citizens . It offers reception services, job placement of disadvantaged people, training interventions on the themes of dialogue and intercultural encounter that aim at the respect and recognition of every human being.

Find more information on its website.

We would like to encourage cooperatives to share with us updated cases that we could feature in our future publications and events. Kindly share your recent examples and best practices on how your cooperative is contributing towards eradication of poverty to njuguna(at)ica.coop.

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