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MUSCLE SHOALS, Ala., USA – Since 1995, every first Saturday in July has been designated by the United Nations (UN) as the International Day of Cooperatives. This day serves to highlight the positive effects of cooperatives on such global issues as poverty reduction, unemployment and social integration. Falling on July 7 this year, the International Day of Cooperatives shares its theme with the UN General Assembly’s International Year of Cooperatives (2012): “Cooperative enterprises build a better world.”

According to the UN website, the cooperative movement plays a major role in national and international affairs, as well as citizen empowerment. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon defines cooperatives and the associated movement in his message for the 2012 observance of the International Day of Cooperatives. “Cooperatives empower their members and strengthen communities,” he said. “They promote food security and enhance opportunities for small agricultural producers. They are better tuned to local needs and better positioned to serve as engines of local growth. By pooling resources, they improve access to information, finance and technology. And their underlying values of self-help, equality and solidarity offer a compass in challenging economic times.”

IFDC is committed to building and improving agricultural linkages through the development of farmer/producer and agro-dealer groups. IFDC’s Catalyze Accelerated Agricultural Intensification for Social and Environmental Stability (CATALIST) project partnered with several cooperatives to help develop organizational professionalism and train members in best agricultural practices. CATALIST was funded by the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Directorate-General for International Cooperation through the Royal Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Kigali, Rwanda.

One such partnership was between CATALIST and the Central Agricultural Cooperative of North Kivu (COOCENKI), based in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). COOCENKI encompasses 25 cooperatives in DRC and – with the help of CATALIST – plans to be the first organization in the Kivu region to specialize in agro-input market development.

“Working with cooperatives allows IFDC to reach thousands of farmers in order to transfer information and technology,” stated John Wendt, program leader for Natural Resource Management in East Africa. “Working with national, provincial and local governments and cooperatives in the Great Lakes Region of Central Africa, CATALIST provided information on integrated soil fertility management and best agricultural practices. Over 200,000 farmers in the region adopted IFDC-recommended technologies and techniques.”

CATALIST also worked closely with the League of Women Farmers’ Organization of North Kivu (LOFEPACO), which was established in 2000 to give opportunities to women farmers of war-torn North Kivu. CATALIST helped LOFEPACO members intensify their farming output and facilitated their access to credit.

Additionally, the Confederation of Agricultural Producer Associations for Development (CAPAD) – which comprises 72 cooperative organizations – is a key partner of IFDC’s CATALIST project in Burundi. IFDC is committed to partnering with and assisting agricultural cooperatives to build a better world.

Headquartered in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, USA, IFDC is a public international organization, governed by an international board of directors with representation from developed and developing countries. The nonprofit Center, with over 700 employees in more than 35 countries in Africa and Eurasia, is supported by various bilateral and multilateral aid agencies, private foundations and national governments.

IFDC focuses on increasing and sustaining food security and agricultural productivity in developing countries through the development and transfer of effective and environmentally sound crop nutrient technology and agribusiness expertise.