PRESENTED BY: Lot Mlati, Assistant FAO Representative (Programme) in South Africa.

DATE AND VENUE: 4 September 2012, Manhattan Hotel, Pretoria

1. Introduction
Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, First of all I wish to thank you for inviting FAO Country Office in South Africa to give address at NERPO’s 15th Annual General Meeting and to share its experiences on the role of producer organisations and cooperatives in the development of smallholder farmers. We feel honoured to be invited to your annual general meeting.

I would also like to thank Dr Langa CEO of NERPO for availing herself at the recent meeting of FAO Director General with senior management of private sector, state owned enterprises and civil society in South Africa which took place in July during the DG’s visit to South Africa.

We are pleased to learn that the major goal of NERPO as an association of smallholder cattle, sheep, goat and pig producers is to grow into commercial farmers/farming and to participate meaningfully in the mainstream markets. It is a noble goal in the light of the challenges which farmers experience which ranges from limited land size, precarious land tenure and inadequate livestock handling infrastructure. low quantities and unsuitable quality of livestock that are offered to the markets, deficient entrepreneurial skills for commercial livestock production, limited access to markets., limited access to affordable credit facilities and virtually no collective approaches to accessing both input and output markets.

FAO"s mandate is to achieve food security for all and to make sure people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives. FAO cannot be in the position to achieve this mandate alone hence partnerships are encouraged and are firmly embedded in FAO’s way of doing business at global, regional, subregional and national levels.

FAO works in partnership with various institutions such as producer organisations (Pos), cooperatives, grassroots organizations, private foundations, companies, professional associations, other United Nations agencies, national governments and more. Some partnerships operate at national level or in the field; others are regional or global in nature. FAO works in partnership with others on food security, natural resource management, forestry and fisheries, early warning of food emergencies, disaster recovery, food safety, bioenergy and many other areas.

2. FAO"s support to producer organisations (Pos) and cooperatives
Evidence shows that strong agricultural and food cooperatives contribute to improved food security and are highly resilient to financial, environmental, and other types of shocks and crises.

They are able to provide a range of services to their members, particularly access to productive inputs, output markets, information and communication. They also allow their members to obtain access to and to manage natural resources, and enable their members to have a voice in the decision-making processes that influence policies.

However, cooperatives are able to thrive and act as a vehicle for inclusion and market integration for their members only if they are empowered and have an appropriate enabling environment. In other words, they need favourable conditions, including sound policies, economic incentives, a conducive regulatory and legal framework and participatory frameworks that enable them to consult and engage in dialogue with various stakeholders, particularly decision-makers. All these conditions are necessary for the establishment, development and sustainability of cooperatives.

Given their importance in reducing poverty and achieving food security, FAO has recently reaffirmed its commitment to strengthening agricultural and food cooperatives and raising awareness and understanding of them by partnering with various stakeholders, including the cooperatives themselves and national governments.

3. Women"s participation in both women

It is important to mention that women"s participation in both women only and mixed cooperatives is essential, producer organisations (Pos) and cooperatives enable women farmers to aggregate their harvests, negotiate better prices, introduce value added processing, and potentially provide better access to transportation for members" produce. The 37th Committee on World Food Security (CFS) urged Member States to actively promote women‘s leadership and to strengthen women"s capacity to organize, especially in rural areas.
-Closing the gender gap through strong Cooperatives and Producer Organizations

Closing the gender gap in agricultural inputs alone could lift 100–150 million people out of hunger. Women make significant contributions to the rural economy in all developing countries. Their roles differ across regions, yet they consistently have less access than men to the resources and opportunities they need to be more productive. Increasing women‘s access to land, livestock, education, financial services, extension, technology and rural employment would boost their productivity and generate gains in terms of agricultural production, food security, economic growth and social welfare (State of Food and Agriculture, 2010-2011).

FAO works with governments, producer organisations (Pos) and cooperatives to support both rural women and men who are small producers in agriculture and who, otherwise, might not gain access to the resources or services they need to improve their livelihoods.

4. International Year of Cooperatives 2012
In the context of the 2012 International Year of Cooperatives (IYC), FAO has joined forces with the other Rome-based agencies – the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) – the Committee for the Promotion and Advancement of Cooperatives (COPAC) and other United Nations (UN) entities to promote and build awareness and understanding of the role of agricultural and food cooperatives in employment generation, poverty alleviation and improved food security.

To achieve this goal, FAO and its partners have been developing a strategy to implement during the International Year of Cooperatives (IYC) and beyond. This strategy includes organizing a series of awareness raising activities, producing policy and communication materials on thematic areas concerning cooperatives, and providing technical support to national governments in establishing and developing an enabling environment for producer organizations and cooperatives. These activities are carried out through the FAO Interdepartmental Working Group on Institution Building for Agriculture and Rural Development, in partnership with UN agencies, governing bodies, producer organizations and cooperatives, and other relevant stakeholders.

5. FAO activities in support of Community based organizations in South Africa

FAO programmes in South Africa predominantly deal with the provision of technical assistance to the relevant Departments and are determined by the Government priorities.

Telefood is an area in which FAO has worked with community based organizations in providing micro projects. Telefood is a Programme funded by FAO to help poor people free themselves from daily struggle to get enough food to eat. This programme was initiated to support micro-projects and was launched in 1997 by FAO as one of the ways of dealing with food insecurity problems in the world and introduced to South Africa during March 2002. They are intended to improve the livelihoods of poor families by enhancing agricultural production and promoting added value, enabling them to produce more food and to generate cash income, thereby allowing them better access to food.

The beneficiaries are poor farmers with limited investment capacity. They are given access to most essential production items such as basic tools, materials, and agricultural inputs to grow crops, raise livestock and fish, process food to feed their families and sell production surpluses at an affordable price to local communities.

6. Conclusion
The National Emergent Red Meat Producers' Organisation (NERPO) is one of the key stakeholders in the Agricultural sector. We take note that one of its primary objective is to commercialise the development of agricultural sector and ensure meaningful participation of emerging farmers within the agricultural sector. FAO recognises the role of NERPO in this regards and within the context of addressing food security. FAO cannot be in the position to achieve its mandate of achieving food security for all alone, hence partnerships with other stakeholders are encouraged. We would like to engage NERPO in a discussion to see how we could collaborate and further agricultural development in South Africa