Rural Poverty & Agricultural Cooperatives
More than a half a billion people in Asia and the Pacific live on less than one US dollar a day. Hunger and poverty are concentrated in Asian rural areas with three-fourths of the world’s farm households, the majority being small and marginal farmers having less than 1 hectare on average. Small and marginal farmers, rural landless, indigenous people and persons with disabilities, especially women, are the poorest. Living in adverse agro-ecological and natural disaster-prone zones which are typically rain fed lands, remote, landlocked, upland, coastal areas and small islands, vulnerable rural poor are the focus of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Population growth and environmental degradation are reducing access to land, water and other natural resources needed to sustain rural livelihoods. Inadequate non-farm rural work opportunities are forcing more and more rural poor to migrate to urban areas to take up low-paid unskilled employment.
Agricultural cooperatives are democratic member organizations based on the principles of social cohesion, self-help and equity, enabling effective participation by rural poor in local decision-making and improving their access to health, education, credit and housing. Cooperatives promote farm diversification, value-added processing and marketing by small rural producers while reducing associated business risks. Cooperatives in NEDAC member countries have brought together hundreds of thousands of small rural producers to form large business ventures exporting a wide range of agricultural, horticultural and dairy products. (See UN Secretary General’s Report to the General Assembly on the role of Cooperatives)