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"Confronting Climate Change": How cooperatives contribute to meeting today's challenges

Ranging from small-scale to multi-million dollar businesses, cooperatives employ today some 100 million women and men in both industrialized and developing countries, and have more than 800 million individual members across the globe. 'Concern for community' is one of the Cooperative Principles which guides the work of cooperatives around the world. Celebrated annually on the first Saturday of July, the 14th UN International Day of Cooperatives focuses this year on the significant contribution that cooperatives can make to mitigating climate change. In the context of climate change and food price rises, cooperatives do play a role in rural areas around the world. The following pictures highlight not only how cooperatives reduce carbon emissions, but also promote sustainable development in general.

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Cooperating in times of crisis
In India, the needs of 67% of rural households are covered by cooperatives. Neela Jayaram lives in the village of Kesavarayampatti, Tamil Nadu State. Few years ago, she was toiling away in the paddy fields struggling to support her four children and ageing husband. Life was hard and sometimes she slept on an empty stomach. Today, Neela Jayaram's life, and that of her family, has dramatically improved. Together with a host of other women from the 120 families living in Kesavarayampatti, she has formed a self-help group based on dairy farming. Photo:ILO/Crozet M.
Wind cooperatives: A powerful community model
Not only an attractive resource due to its low cost and ecological benefits, wind energy also creates local employment. However, establishing wind farms requires that the communities are part of the planning process to ensure its acceptance and continued operation. Denmark is living proof that community-owned power can go a long way to creating a renewable energy future. Started in the 1970's when three rural Danish families banded together to install a wind turbine, wind power cooperatives are now a nationwide movement with more than 100,000 family members. Together the cooperatives have installed 80% of Denmark's turbines which now account for 10% of the entire country's electricity needs. Photo:ILO/Crozet M.
Cooperatives: an option for successful agricultural development
ILO research undertaken in Africa in 2005 revealed that cooperatives in Africa are about to enter a phase of 'renaissance' but need a favourable legal and institutional environment, greater visibility, a stronger voice, further diversification, improved governance, better management, and solid horizontal networks and vertical structures. In the quarries of Mtongani (Dar Es Salaam), a cooperative mushroom and hen house project directed was proposed as an alternative to the stone breaking that used to be the principal economic activity of women in the district. Lazia (left), who is 50 years old and has 6 children, now works at the mushroom cultivation project. Photo:ILO/Crozet M.
Interest in cooperative enterprise growing in Africa
In 2007, the ILO launched a new programme in Africa called Cooperative Facility for Africa, or in short COOPAFRICA. The programme pursues the overarching goal of mobilizing the cooperative self-help mechanism and to improve their governance, efficiency and performance in order to strengthen their capacity to create jobs, access markets, generate income, reduce poverty, provide social protection and give people a voice in society. Photo:ILO/Maillard J.
One UN initiative in Madagascar seeks to include cooperatives
Officials in Madagascar recognize that cooperatives have a potential in reducing poverty, addressing food security issues and creating jobs. As such, they are interested in including a cooperative component in the new "one United Nations" project to promote food security by introducing a network of grain banks in southern Madagascar where drought and desertification are common. Photo:ILO/Crozet M.
French agricultural cooperatives: responsible employers
With 3,200 enterprises, cooperatives play a prominent role in agriculture and the food industry in France. They employ 150,000 full-time workers and represent a turnover of over 80 billion Euros. Three out of four of the 406,000 French farms are members of cooperatives. Their impact translates as well into sustainable development policy, such as building sustainability indicators, enhancing biomass development, environmental and social responsability. Photo:ILO/Maillard J.
ILO says...
"Cooperatives can lead us closer towards a democratic, people-centred economy which cares for the environment, while promoting economic growth, social justice and fair globalization" said the Director General of the ILO, Juan Somavia. The International Labour Organization (ILO) has been active in cooperative development for the last 86 years, providing member States with assistance in cooperative policy, legislation, training, business development and networking. It is the only UN-organization with a dedicated cooperative development Branch, and the only organization that has developed an international standard in this field (i.e. ILO Recommendation 193). Photo:ILO/Crozet M.

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Last update: Sunday - 24 September 2023