Civil Society Program

The Role of Agricultural Cooperatives in Helping Reduce Poverty in Asia and the Pacific

Learning with Partners (Asian Farmers' Association, AgriTerra, and AsiaDHRRA)
Friday, 4 May 2018, 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
The Role of Agricultural Cooperatives in Helping Reduce Poverty in Asia and the Pacific

Seminar Summary

This session included case study presentations of successful agricultural cooperatives in Asia and the Pacific. The discussions acknowledged the value of farmers’ associations and agricultural cooperatives in giving farmers stronger involvement in the value chain and increasing their market power. Agricultural cooperatives play a key role in linking farmers to markets, providing a collective platform for negotiating with buyers, offering aggregating, marketing and processing services, providing distribution channels for primary products, and delivering training, business planning and capacity building services to their members. Questions were also raised about the extent of involvement of women and young people in agricultural cooperatives, and whether the cooperative model was the best model to encouarge young people to take up agriculture in the twenty-first century.


Cornelis (Kees) BloklandManaging Director, Agriterra

Mr. Kees Blokland is founder and managing director of Agriterra since its creation in 1997. He coined the term "agri-agency" to distinguish the special kind of development cooperation agency that is governed by farmers’ organizations and cooperatives and exclusively targets the same entities in the developing world. Annually, through the Agripool, a deployment office, hundreds of members, directors, and staff of cooperatives and farmers’ organizations advice, train, and exchange with their colleagues in many developing countries. Mr. Blokland is founder and board member of AgriCord, the alliance of agri-agencies, and served from 2008-2016 as vice-president. He was managing director of ACODEA- Agriagencia de España, the Spain-based agri-agency, and currently supports the establishment of the Italian agri-agency. An economist with a PhD in social sciences, Mr. Blokland studies the impact of farmer organizations on development.

Rico B. GeronAGAP Party-List Representative, Philippine House of Representatives

Rico B. Geron currently serves as the representative of the AGAP-Party List and has held this title since the 16th Congress of the Philippine House of Representatives. Mr. Geron also leads the Committee on Cooperatives Development as chairperson and is a member of several House Committee Development Councils, including the Agrarian Reform, Agriculture and Food, and the Southern Tagalog Cooperatives Development Council.

Wen-Chi HuangProfessor and Chair, Department of Agribusiness Management, National Pingtung University of Science and Technology, Taipei,China

Wen-Chi Huang is the current professor and chair of the Department of Agribusiness Management at the National Pingtung University of Science and Technology (NPUST) in Taipei,China. Ms. Huang also serves as the director of the International Master's Degree Program in Agribusiness. She is the current vice-chair for women's representative-at-large at the Asian Partnership for Human Resource Development in Rural Areas (Asia DHRRA) and is part of the senior board of directors of the Rural Economics Society of Taiwan*. Ms. Huang's main specialization as an academic and as a professional is resource and environmental economics.

*an institution in the ADB member economy referred to as Taipei,China

Cresente C. PaezAsian Farmers' Association (AFA) Cooperative Development Program Director

Mr. Paez is a veteran and visionary co-op leader, who was a former representative in the Philippine Congress. He had represented COOP-NATCCO Party for 12 years in the House of Representatives of the Philippines (1998–2001; 2009–2016), was chairman of the House Committee on Cooperatives Development, and a former member of the Legislative Committee of the International Cooperative Alliance (1998-2001). He was appointed cooperative sector representative to the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) and assistant secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in 1990. He is the former chief cxecutive officer of the National Confederation of Cooperatives (NATCCO). Mr. Paez earned a degree in agriculture, major in agricultural engineering, from the University of Southern Mindanao, Philippines. He has a master's degree in business management from the University of San Jose Recoletos, and is also a graduate of the basic management program of the Asian Institute of Management. Presently, he is the Cooperative Development Program director of Asian Farmers' Association or AFA, a regional network of 20 national farmers' organizations, representing about 13 million members in 16 countries.

Xianbin YaoSpecial Senior Advisor to the President, ADB

Mr. Xianbin Yao is the special senior advisor to the President of ADB. He coordinates ADB’s development effectiveness work and engages ADB’s Board committee on development effectiveness along with the Independent Evaluation Department of ADB. Prior to this, Mr. Yao was the director general of ADB’s Pacific Department, as well as the Regional and Sustainable Development Department. Mr. Yao, a national of the People’s Republic of China, joined ADB in 1991 as a young professional. He holds a doctoral degree in agricultural economics from Michigan State University.


Ma. Estrella Penunia Secretary General, Asian Farmers’ Association (AFA)

Ma. Estrella Penunia is secretary general of the Asian Farmers’ Association (AFA), a regional alliance of national farmers organizations (FOs) in Asia. Established in 2002, AFA is currently composed of 20 national FOs in 16 countries, representing around 13 million small-scale men and women farmers. AFA carries out programs on policy advocacy, knowledge management, enterprise development and governance. It conducts activities related to policy information, analyses and campaigns as well as dialogues with decision makers, both at national and regional levels. It provides technical and managerial support to members’ initiatives on farmers’ organizing and empowerment, organizational development and management, access to natural and production resources, sustainable agriculture, equity led marketing and trading. It likewise develops projects along these areas that are implemented in selected countries. As a social development worker, Ms. Penunia spent more than three decades in the field of rural development, working with the famers, fishers, and indigenous peoples’ sectors in various capacities as community organizer, primary health care worker, participatory action researcher, trainer, gender advocate, among others. In 2014, FAO appointed Ms. Penunia special ambassador for the International Year of Family Farming. She and her husband are currently working in partnership with a farming family in developing a 2-hectare upland farm through sustainable, integrated, diversified, organic practices.

Marlene RamirezSecretary General, Asian Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas (AsiaDHRRA)

Marlene D. Ramirez is secretary general of Asian Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas (AsiaDHRRA), where she has been helping organize a regional farmers' alliance, now an autonomous body called Asian Farmers' Association (AFA) serving millions of farmers in Asia. She sits on the board of AgriCord global alliance of agri-agencies, providing direct financing and advice to farmers/fishers' organizations, and represents AgriCord in the Joint Steering Committee of European Union-International Fund for Agricultural Development ASEAN Farmers' Organization Support Program (AFOSP 2015-2019). From 2010 to date, she serves as interlocuter for civil society engagement with the Food and Agriculture Organization Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, and sits in the Civil Society Governance Council of Grow Asia. As an ASEAN follower, she represents AsiaDHRRA in the Coordinating Conference on the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community, has led the drafting of ASEAN Rural Development and Poverty Eradication Framework Action Plan 2011-2015 and the external Mid-term Review of the ASEAN Socio Cultural Community Blueprint in 2013.