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ASEAN co-op federations to redeem agri

MALATE, MANILA – Cooperatives all over the ASEAN region have agreed to work together to gain control of the agriculture industry.

 
As Amir Islam an observer from Bangladesh said: “Landless workers simply provide labor to landlords and land-owning farmers are usually forced to sell cheap to traders.  And they remain poor or are starving.  And it is the same story everywhere in Asia.”


Representatives of the agricultural cooperatives, farmers’ and fishers’ organizations, development partners and civil society organizations, gathered at the 7th ASEAN Cooperative Business Forum (ACBF) held at the Pan-Pacific Hotel on January 15-17.


Theme for the event was “Coop to Coop Partnerships with Family Farmers to Advance Prosperity for All.”


Participants signed a “Statement of Commitment” where the participants recognized that ASEAN has a combined population of 640 million with 54% living in rural areas.  In Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar, the rural population is from 60-80%; and that this rural populace “mainly rely on agriculture for a living, with a farm size of 2 hectares or less, and that farming is primarily a family endeavor.”


The Forum’s Commitment also deplored that while there is “remarkable economic growth in the ASEAN region”, and yet there exists “massive hunger and poverty in the rural areas, affecting mostly family farmers/fishers/indigenous peoples, , even if they are the ones who produce food for the region and for the world.”


In conclusion, it was agreed that the co-ops would work for a small-scale men and women farmers and their families are 1)free from hunger and poverty, are happy and in good health, and live in peace and prosperity; 2) have rightful access and control over the lands they till and other basic productive resources; nurture their farmlands through appropriate, integrated and environment-friendly agricultural practices and technologies, get fair market and prices for their products, and have control over their goods and services; and, 3) are self-reliant, educated and able to participate in development processes through politically strong, socially responsive, culturally sensitive and economically viable farmers’ organizations and cooperatives.


How to achieve that?  


The participants will: a) Expand trading transactions between and among agri-cooperatives ; b) Continue to showcase products of farmers’ organizations and agriculture cooperatives through the conduct of the Cooperative Trade Fair Exhibits in each country and at the regional level; c)  Enhance capacity building of agricultural cooperatives through programmatic learning exchanges on commodities of common interests, starting with coffee . . .;  d) Call for institutionalized participation of farmers organizations and
agricultural cooperatives; e) Engage the ASEAN Sectoral Working Group on Agricultural Cooperatives (ASWGAC), ASEAN Center for the Development of Agri Cooperatives (ACEDAC), ASEAN Sectoral Working Group on Social Forestry, ASEAN Sectoral Working Group on Crops and the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) towards the formulation, lobbying and final adoption and the effective implementation of the ASEAN Roadmap on Agricultural Cooperatives; f) Engage other relevant ASEAN sectoral working groups such as on crops, on social forestry, to promote partnerships with farmer cooperatives engaged in value-adding endeavors for farm and forest-based products; g) Enhance more coop-to-coop collaborations, policy forums, learning exchanges, social dialogues as well as other areas for cooperation; h) Document contributions of agri-cooperatives in the Gross Domestic Product of each country and the over-all United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals of ending poverty and hunger, promoting sustainable production and consumption, gender equality, inclusive and democratic institutions, and partnerships.
 

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