Grow Co-operatives

Our Grow Co-operatives campaign focuses on the crucial role that smallholder farmers and co-operatives in developing countries can play in feeding the world’s growing population fairly and sustainably.

About our campaign

We partnered with Oxfam to call on the UK Government to unlock greater support for smallholder farmers and co-operatives to feed the world fairly and sustainably. More specifically, we want the UK Government to champion:

  • Fair and sustainable methods of increasing global food production
  • The crucial role of smallholder farmers and co-operatives
  • Increased investment in sustainable smallholder agriculture to lift farmers – many of whom are women – out of poverty.

The ask

To achieve this, we asked our members and Oxfam’s supporters to sign our petition to send a message to the UK Government. In total, nearly 80,000 Co-operative members and Oxfam supporters supported the ask. We travelled to 10 Downing Street to pass on the message. See (right) a video from the hand-in.

We delivered the petition a month ahead of the G8 Summit in June 2013, which we believe provided a crucial opportunity for governments to recognise the contribution that smallholder farmers and co-operatives make towards food security and poverty reduction.

The Government and other politicians listened and are committed to supporting smallholder farmers. However, there's still more to be done, particularly on unlocking greater support for the co-operatives and farmer organisations that support smallholder farmers.


The issue

Betty is one of around 500 million smallholder farmers around the world, who together feed nearly a third of humanity. We believe that with the right tools, training and investment, smallholder farmers - many of whom are women - offer an excellent route to feed the world’s growing population fairly and sustainably. What’s more, if supported to form co-operatives, this enables them to pool resources, realise economies of scale and secure fairer prices.


Why smallholders?

Smallholder farmers and co-operatives offer an excellent route to help feed the world fairly and sustainably.

There are currently around 500 million smallholder farming households in the world, together feeding nearly a third of humanity. This figure is even higher in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, where smallholder farmers produce up to 80% of food! Despite this, the majority of smallholder farmers still lack investment and consequently struggle to produce much beyond subsistence levels.

Currently, 1 in 7 people around the world goes to bed hungry every night! With global population set to increase by another 2 billion by 2050, global food production will need to increase by 70% to meet the predicted future population of 9 billion. In fact, more food will need to be produced in the coming decades than has been produced in the past ten thousand years combined! We believe that smallholder farmers and co-operatives could help to feed this growing population fairly and sustainably.


Why co-operatives?

Co-operatives have an important role to play, as they enable smallholder farmers to pool resources, realise economies of scale and secure fairer prices. In fact, the majority of the million-plus farmers who are part of the Fairtrade movement are involved through co-operatives.

Furthermore, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, International Fund for Agricultural Development and World Food Programme have all pledged to recognise and do more to enhance the contribution that agricultural co-operatives can make towards food security and poverty reduction.

Our work with small-scale tea farmers in Kenya demonstrates the benefits they have received through joining a co-operative. Tea farmers traditionally face numerous challenges such as highly unstable global tea prices and a lack of bargaining power to negotiate decent terms of trade.

We’ve supported 11,000 smallholder tea farmers to form co-operatives, helping them to achieve Fairtrade Certification, improve access to markets, and diversify into other produce to reduce reliance on tea alone and improve local food security.

Find out more about other co-operatives we’re supporting around the world.


Why agriculture?

The World Bank argues that for the majority of the world’s population, agriculture is a critical component in the successful attainment of the Millennium Development Goals. Agriculture is linked to all of the MDGs, but agriculture-led economic growth and improved nutrition are particularly key for addressing Millennium Development Goal 1 - eradicating extreme poverty and hunger.

The World Economic Forum on Africa believes that transforming the small-scale farming sector, whose potential has remained dormant for a long time, is key to increasing agricultural productivity in Africa. This is because smallholder farmers have traditionally been negatively affected by issues such as reduced levels of aid to agriculture and insufficient public spending on agriculture.


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