A co-operative is a private sector enterprise set up to meet its members’ needs. Co-operatives are active in markets around the world at local, national and global levels.

In developing countries they can be a source of goods, services and employment for the poor.

There are three broad types of co-operative:

  1. Financial co-operatives - the most widespread type of co-operative, they encompass both large co-operative banks and small village-level credit unions. Financial co-operatives provide services, such as credit, money transfer and insurance, to people who may not have access to other financial services.
  2. Agricultural co-operatives - among the oldest forms of co-operative in the world, these facilitate the production and marketing of food.
  3. Utility co-operatives – these can provide utilities such as water and electricity in areas not catered for by other providers. These co-operatives can be large scale initiatives, for example in Bangladesh, where electricity co-operatives serve 28 million people.

DFID works with specific co-operatives, providing financial aid and technical assistance, and with governments and regulatory bodies to facilitate the setting up of co-operatives.


Last updated: 17 Mar 2009