GLOBAL - This year's World Food Day, on 16 October, coincides with international concerns about food prices, writes Charlotte Johnston.
First held in 1979 to raise awareness of food security and agricultural issues, World Food Day is celebrated during the annual Committee on World Food Security, which meets this week in Rome, to discuss solutions to skyrocketing food prices.
Tonight across the world, 870 million people (more than one and a half times the population of the European Union) will go to bed hungry. And with food prices expected to continue upwards it would appear this problem will only get worse.
Extreme weather conditions have pushed global food prices close to their highest ever levels.
This is likely to spark the food versus fuel debate, with the European Commission set to propose a five per cent cap on food-based biofuels this week.
But as well as responding to the current crisis, how can we prevent this happening again?
Agricultural co-operatives are the focus of World Food Day 2012. It hopes to highlight the role of cooperatives in improving food security and contributing to the eradication of hunger.
Cooperatives are an important piece of achieving food security for all. Seventy per cent of those who face hunger live in rural areas where agriculture serves as the economic mainstay. Smallholder farmers are central to addressing hunger, yet many face barriers such as a lack of infrastructure, outdated farming practices, and a lack of access to financial services.
Cooperatives improve farmers’ agricultural productivity and equip them with access to marketing, savings, credit, insurance, and technology. Farmer cooperatives serve both to connect farmers to markets and to increase food production.
It is estimated that one billion individuals are members of cooperatives worldwide, generating more than 100 million jobs around the world. In agriculture, forestry, fishing and livestock keeping, members participate in production, profit-sharing, cost-saving, risk-sharing and income-generating activities, which lead to better bargaining power for members as buyers and sellers in the marketplace.