Dutch Queen Maxima supports small farmers in developing countries
Speaking at the conference on "Cooperating towards international stability of food supplies" on 1 November 2012, Princess Maxima made an impassioned plea for financial inclusion and cooperative development as a solution for the world's poverty and the food problem. Her appeal to believe especially in the power of small farmers went to the heart of the philosophy of Rabobank Foundation.
She advocated making financial services available to the farming population in developing countries, saying: "Even though farmers have to feed the world, it is still difficult - if not impossible - for those in developing countries to gain access to banks or insurers. As a result they have no possibility to bridge the period between sowing and harvest, and consequently no capital with which to expand their business or make it more sustainable, much less to create a financial buffer. If food security is ever to become a reality for all, that at least must change."
Rabobank Foundation has always endorsed the importance of organising and supporting the millions of small farmers in developing countries through cooperatives. Primarily with the aim of improving the economic position of the farmers, but there is also a manifest global interest. Half of the world's land that is used for food production is worked by these small farmers. It must therefore be possible to achieve enormous progress in terms of food production if, in the future, they were to do that work in a more efficient and productive way.
Best practice: ECOM
One of the practical examples that was mentioned during the conference is a cocoa programme in the Ivory Coast. Together with Rabo Development and Rabobank Foundation, the foodstuffs company ECOM, a client of Rabobank International, has set up a number of cooperatives in the cocoa sector there. The farmers cooperatives are being strengthened and the farmers are being trained. The training programme will give the production of sustainable cocoa a tremendous boost. The farmers will be able to generate more income, and under better conditions. The cooperatives will be better able to organise themselves, and thus become eligible for financing through the banks. At the same time, ECOM will be expanding its network of certified suppliers and building up a strong relationship with them. The result, for all concerned, is a win-win-win situation.