Ariel Guarco, who encouraged the audience to take  a strategic perspective that incorporates the objective of democratization of the agri-food system.

Nepal’s second cooperative congress was a two-day event featuring more than 1,000 delegates from across the country, including Prime Minister Sharma Oli.

An event organized by of the National Cooperative Federation of Nepal (NCF) & Ministry of Agriculture, Land Management & Cooperatives, the gathering brought together cooperatives from Nepal and from the Asia Pacific region, alongside government representatives and international leaders.

They included International Co-operative Alliance President, Ariel Guarco, who encouraged the audience to take  a strategic perspective that incorporates the objective of democratization of the agri-food system, “and must do so in dialogue with all the actors of the territory: families, producers, SMEs, workers, traders, men and women of every nation and culture that are increasingly concerned about their health and the health of the planet”.

Nepal has over 34,500 primary cooperatives and 69 district cooperative associations across the country. More than 13,500 of these are savings and credit cooperatives, the majority of which are based in urban areas.

“We have to re-think the entire food system, beginning by discussing the relations of power between its actors. At this point the agricultural cooperatives have an enormous responsibility and opportunity to be a main actor in the defense of our planet,” said Mr Guarco.

He pointed out that “cooperatives in rural areas have long demonstrated their capacity to build large-scale enterprises, including transnational and competitive ones in the most demanding markets, starting with the supportive integration of small and medium producers in all value chains”.

He added: “Our generation has the responsibility to build a system that guarantees healthy and nutritious food for all. And this responsibility cannot be delegated in an economic sector, much less in the companies of the concentrated economy. The answer is in greater democracy in more companies that represent the interests and needs of each of us.”

Nepalese Finance Minister, Yubaraj Khatiwada, said the government was ready to assist in the capacity building of co-operatives.

The minister added that the government was ready to implement policies to help cooperatives revise their institutional structures so they can invest more funds in infrastructure, food security, airport construction and hydropower, among other sectors.

UNDP Country Director Renaud Meyer told delegates the UN had given priority to achieving the SDGs through cooperatives.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) Country Director Richard Howard added that cooperatives could assist in achieving the economic growth through job creation at grassroots level while eliminating the use of child labour and human trafficking in Nepal.

Mr Guarco spoke on 5 April, during a session that also featured former Prime Minister Puspa Kamal Dahal; Minister of Cooperatives Chakra Pani Khanal; and the president of ICA-AP, Li Chunsheng.

After his speech, Mr Guarco participated in the meeting of the Asia-Pacific Region of the Alliance and visited NCF’s head office in Kathmandu.