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Remarks by Ertharin Cousin Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme at the Committee on World Food Security

Good morning, Honourable Staffan de Mistura, Excellencies, esteemed colleagues and ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for this opportunity to join in this commemoration of World Food Day. WFP provides food assistance and we too now work with, benefit from and support cooperatives.

In the next three minutes I will summarize three key things learned from WFP’s engagement with cooperatives since 2008.  I start with 2008 because that’s when WFP launched  its Purchase for Progress initiative, popularly known as P4P.  P4P achieves the important objectives – borrowing liberally from President Nwanze – that buying food from smallholder farmers provides the opportunity to turn farmers into business people. P4P improves the nutrition of rural families, and reduces the cost of food assistance programmes.

Lesson 1:  Cooperatives work.  Cooperatives will succeed in achieving these goals, but there are two critical ifs attached to that claim.  Farmers will supply high-quality food if they know that there is an assured market for that food and if they receive the support and training they need to deliver high quality food.  By learning to deliver a higher quality product, rural farmers provide better nutrition for their own families and their communities.  We’ve seen it.  But the opportunity only begins with selling to WFP. The success of this program requires opportunities for cooperative farmers to sell to the government or to the private sector. When that happens, farmers move from a WFP program to a sustainable, durable opportunity to feed their own families.

Lesson 2:  This isn’t about us. Not the people in this room. Not WFP. We can’t do this alone.  We need lots of partners to achieve maximum collaborative advantage in these efforts.  We need UN agencies and regional organizations:  FAO, IFAD and Bioversity for their expertise in agricultural development, storage and credit for cooperatives.  And we need groups like those represented in this room - ACTESA, ECOWAS, and IICA - to promote successful models from member states in building supportive legal, policy and market environments at the country level. The work and opportunities at the country level are essential for ongoing efforts to successfully scale up for wider impact. We need NGOs who train cooperatives, and contribute to the empowerment of women members.  

Lesson 3:  When we collaborate for the people we are here to serve, we perform our mandates better.  We increase stakeholder value for money by bringing down the cost of food assistance through cheaper local prices, reducing storage periods, and shortening distances between points of purchase and distribution.  Through these efforts, we grow autonomy and resilience in rural communities, improve livelihoods, and empower the poor to take control of their future; a future in which strong cooperatives and strong communities will be there to deliver social protection and safety nets through tough times, benefiting the most vulnerable among them.  Working together we will better enable mothers and fathers to feed their own children, really giving us something to not only commemorate but to celebrate on future World Food Days.

Thank you.