Recognizing the importance of rural institutions to socio-economic development: 2012 The International Year of Cooperatives.

2012 has been declared by the United Nations (UN) as the International Year of Cooperatives. However, it all starts today on the 31st October, when the year is officially launched at the UN Headquarters in New York.

At the launch the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP) will host a side event that focuses on agricultural cooperatives and their importance for food security. The event will be webcast and you can tune in at 1.15 pm (GMT -4).

Cooperatives are business enterprises owned and controlled by the members they serve. The difference between cooperatives and other types of businesses lies in the importance of keeping the balance between pursuing profit and meeting the interests of the community and their members. According to ILO cooperatives provide 100 million jobs worldwide. Agricultural cooperatives are important in supporting small agricultural producers and marginalized groups because they create sustainable rural employment, and they facilitate access to markets, food and productive assets. They also help them influence policy and decision making.

For the International Year of Cooperatives and beyond, the three Rome-based United Nations agencies (FAO, IFAD and WFP) will continue to raise awareness and support rural institutions, farmer and producer associations, and cooperatives.

For more information: Agricultural Cooperatives: Paving the way for Food Security and Rural Development.

Photo credit: ©IFAD/Radhika Chalasani