Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Dear Laila has kindly translated my al akhbar article

The Year of Cooperatives

UN agencies dealing with food and agriculture have recently declared 2012 “The International Year of Cooperatives.” This comes with a programme of action aiming to improve the role of farming cooperatives in poor countries as a major way of dealing with rural poverty and supporting food security. In their statement, they point out that cooperatives operate in all economic sectors, include 800 million members and provide 100 million job opportunities. The gross output of the largest 300 cooperatives in the world exceeded a trillion dollars in 2008. In Brazil, which has seen rapid agricultural growth in the past decade, cooperatives are responsible for 37% of agricultural output, therefore more than 5% of gross output. Cooperative working is the most successful way to enable small producers to enter the market and confront the monopoly of fertilizers and seeds, for example, by the large corporations. It also helps to strengthen the negotiating power of the weak.

Internationally, farming and food cooperatives have an essential role in food security and improving the standards of living for the poor. But, as usual, Lebanon is an exception to the rule. Despite the existence of hundreds of farming cooperatives, food security is still deteriorating while the number of the rural poor increases.

Most observers believe that the cooperative experience in Lebanon has not been successful on the whole, despite international funding reaching millions of dollars in the case of some. This has to do with the absence of a legal framework to protect the rights of any members and the inequality between citizens when it comes to applying the law. Without these measures, the cooperatives become another political tool in the hands of some influential people, contributing only in terms of strengthening the power relationships that are a feature of the prevailing order.

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