Training Workshop on Promoting Agricultural Cooperatives in Cambodia: The role of voluntary sustainability standards and responsible contract farming
Agricultural cooperatives provide smallholder farmers with a way to work together, share production resources, and participate in collective business operations. They can help improve livelihoods and reduce poverty in developing countries by providing access to tools, training, networks, and markets that would otherwise be beyond reach for many smallholder farmers.
IISD delivered a training workshop to address some of the challenges faced by agricultural cooperatives in Cambodia. The workshop brought together 40 participants—including representatives from the government, agricultural cooperatives, farmers organizations, and farmers engaged in agricultural cooperatives and contract farming activities. It focused on the roles that voluntary sustainability standards (VSSs) and responsible contract farming can play in supporting collective production schemes and ensuring cooperatives are robust.
VSSs are private or public initiatives that set requirements for producing, consuming, and trading products more sustainably. Farmers and agricultural cooperatives that comply with VSSs engage in more sustainable production practices, which can lead to a range of benefits, such as increased yields, improved soil fertility, and, in turn, new market opportunities and better prices and premiums. The workshop explored how VSSs can help cooperatives form and operate successfully, and conversely how cooperatives can help remove some of the barriers farmers face in accessing the benefits of VSSs.
Contract farming can be an inclusive agricultural business model that helps farmers access better inputs, markets, training, and prices. It can help increase agricultural productivity, improve rural livelihoods, and support food security. However, for contract farming to achieve equitable social, economic, and sustainable benefits, power asymmetries between small-scale producers and buyers must be addressed. Outcomes for women in contract farming can also be especially poor. The workshop explored how template agreements, such as IISD and FAO’s Model Agreement for Responsible Contract Farming and the UNIDROIT/FAO/IFAD Legal Guide on Contract Farming, can help make fair and transparent contract farming a reality.
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